In my day job I serve people trying to consummate relatively large, complicated transactions while facing stress and uncertainty. Trust and respect for expertise is vital for the client and the professional advisor. Marriage and leading a life worth imitating are hard. I’m always looking for successful models. I was particularly impressed by the longstanding friendship of Bill and Ed.
Typically, they voted for opposite tribes but their shared values and respect for each other mattered more. For years, they routinely had civil conversations about their alternate political perspectives.
Within the last 5 to 8 years, strains began to appear in their relationship; particularly set off by political issues. Both had seen the TED talk which warned about assuming someone who disagrees with you is ill-informed, dumb, or evil. This assumption leads to a greater issue of loss of civility.
Yet with passing months the pain of discussing politics increased. Then they tried to avoid talking politics or even economics. But they did not maintain the discipline of disagreeing without being disagreeable. Too often they took the bait of scoring points instead of respecting their friend, seeking a common goal, and discussing ways to achieve it.
Both guys made efforts to restore and preserve the friendship. Those efforts weren’t enough. I know Bill better than Ed and so will tell the breakup from Bill’s perspective. I have his and his wife’s permission to share the details.
Bill’s wife, Pat, recognized deep male friendships with adventure and accountability were good for her husband and their family. For more than a generation she encouraged Bill to engage with decent guys. Pat thought Ed usually helped bring out the best in Bill and said so.
Then one morning, Bill forwarded an email from Ed to Pat. “Please read this and tell me what you think,” he asked. Pat knew something was wrong because Bill used email instead of walking to where she was and handing her the message. The email must have truly upset Bill.
When she read the email, she was upset. She and Bill both read contempt in the words and tone of Ed’s message.
Bill said he was so hurt and insulted he planned to talk face to face. He was not willing to risk email. That was when Pat shared her perception that while time with Ed once brought smiles and growth, more recently it produced stress and grief.
Bill resigned in the relationship, face to face. He wasn’t mad at Ed, but he wouldn’t tolerate contempt. Bill did and does value friendship more than agreement. Bill was and is trusted friends with people whose politics whose politics differ from his.
I know both men and I mourn the loss of their deep friendship. I wish I had more friendships as good as what Ed and Bill enjoyed for a generation. My perception is that they are both the poorer for losing the relationship.
As I write this post, I’m working on my 21st estate sale. “Estate sale” means the owner died. Friend, in the next 100 years you and I will die. When you die you leave everything. For your heirs’ sake, I hope you leave immense wealth. More important, may you leave a giant legacy. Legacy is what people do, say, and think because of your impact.
Are you on track to leave anger, suspicion, and a reputation for needing to be right, or be example of generosity, grace, and love.?
What disagreements will you tolerate to keep a deep relationship vital?
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”