Types of Friendships and Business Relationships

We all have friends in our lives, but how often have we taken a moment to think about the types of friends we have?  Aristotle has given us an interesting model that is helpful to this day of three types of friendship, which are (1) friendships of utility, (2) friendships of pleasure, and (3) friendships of virtue.   I want to start by saying that none of these relationship types are in of themselves bad, but some are by their nature better.

  1. Friendships of Utility.  These are friendships that are based on getting something and are essentially transactional in nature.  You might have a home contractor who helps you out around the house, or a painter, or a mechanic.  You might have a ride share with your kids swimming team, but it’s based largely on shared utility with each other, not on growing in any particular virtue or pleasures. We all have these transactional relationships, especially in the business world where we need something from someone, but aren’t invested in them or who they are.

  2. Friendships of Pleasure.  These friendships are based on doing the same things together that provide pleasure, such as playing on a sports team, or biking, or painting.  The friendships based on pleasure are good things, but they are not about the higher calling, they are about receiving benefit “in the moment”. We sometimes confuse friendships based on pleasure with stronger relationships than they actually are. This isn’t to say they are “bad”, but they simply lack something that can make them stronger.

  3. Friendships of Virtue.  These friendships are based on becoming the best version of yourselves through virtue.  They are transparent, open, walking together on a journey toward improvement.   Relationships of virtue are based on the shared goal of transparently opening our lives to each other, REQUESTING challenging feedback, telling each other what we need to hear with LOVE.  A relationship of virtue helps the alcoholic become clean, it helps a person without emotional intelligence become more caring, it helps a husband become a better dad.  Relationships based on virtue bring diversity, inclusion, growth, because “none of us are as smart as all of us”. If we work together, we do more and are capable of being more. If we do this based on virtue then we do more to achieve good, not just temporary houses built on sand.

Take a second and do a personal inventory of your friendships.  Think about who falls into each category.  Think about if your friendships are based on virtue or not.  You’ll have some that will always stay below that level.  A small group may exist in that space and they are the friendships that need to be cherished. 

NOW… take that same idea and translate it to the business ecosystem.  Think about how your business relationships can be stronger based on their WHY, not just their WHAT and HOW.  If you are aligned on business relationships and their purpose, you will build stronger businesses because you’re building on the right foundation.  We know that companies are stronger if they are built on strategic partnerships with customers.  Think about why that is the case.  It is because as companies build strategic partnerships they are built on a shared direction where they grow together, vs. just using each other.  This shared growth is what all companies should seek out.

I urge you to look at types of virtue in your personal, professional, and business-to-business relationships and invest your time there.  If we do, we’ll make the world a better place because we’re focused on real relationships, not transactional ones.

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