About THE ART OF FRIENDSHIP
Q: Who came up with the idea of writing a book about friendship, and what was the inspiration?
RH: I was mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling book, The Tipping Point, as an example of a "connector." People kept asking me, "How did you become a connector?" They asked me if they too could become one, and I thought, of course they could.
There seems to be a need for making more meaningful connections, a need for a guide to enhancing friendships. So I decided to write a book - to share my thoughts about friendship and to show how anyone can become a connector. When I talked to Sally about it, she had a different perspective, which made me realize that a multi-generational look at the subject would be more interesting and fun. And, as an added benefit, writing a book on friendship enhanced our own relationship.
SH: And when we started writing the book, we thought it would truly be a "he said/she said" dialogue on the previously undefined "rules" of friendship, but it turned out that - guess what? - I am my father's daughter, and many of our opinions were not as different as we thought they'd be. But the process of hashing them out together was certainly lively, and provided an unusually enriching father/daughter bonding experience.
Q: What makes you "experts" in friendship?
RH: I didn't know I was an expert, until people kept saying so. Growing up, I was an only child, and since I didn't have any cousins or brothers and sisters, it caused me to reach out. As I made connections with others, I learned some of the things that helped me be a better friend. Like: keeping in touch by writing a note every once in while - for no reason except to say hello. So, I practice what I preach. I care about friendships - I made myself an expert on friendship because it was meaningful to me.
SH: I am no more an expert than someone who makes the practice of being a good friend a priority in her day-to-day life. It's just that making meaningful connections with other people is something I actually care about, something that infuses my life philosophy, the things that I write about, and everything I do - so writing a book about it was not such a stretch. How did I get that way? Most likely from early exposure and socialization with all different kinds of people, watching my parents' lives as they were enriched by their interesting relationships, and perhaps wanting to emulate my Dad. It may be that this "friend" thing can be passed down from one generation to the next. We certainly believe that the "connector" thing can be, too.
Most importantly - as we say in the book's introduction - these rules should not be considered the "last word" on friendship - we break, test, and update them all the time, as every other would-be "friendship expert" should for him/herself.
Q: Why do you think people need a book about friendship?
RH & SH: Friend relationships seem to be one of those deep, dark social mysteries that many people are having trouble navigating these days. Putting down on paper what some people know innately, what others need to be reminded of, and what still others have never been able to grasp may simplify things for all of these groups. It places the importance of connecting higher up on the priority ladder.
Q: Why are people having a hard time keeping up with the friends that they already have these days?
RH: When I was Sally's age, the pace of life was slower, and that allowed for a little more time for keeping up with people - for writing letters, entertaining, visits to friends and staying in general contact with one's friends. People starting out now are frantic, trying to cram way more into life than my group had to. Because communication is so easy now, it sets a pace that is sometimes too fast to maintain really meaningful friendships.
SH: Busy-ness is the easy answer. That, and the oft-maligned Internet, technology and the isolated lives we lead. But we think that things like the Web and cell phones, more often than not, help friendships flourish. The real reason is that people don't see the importance of friendship as compared to family, making money, being entertained, etc. Or they may see its importance, but they don't make the effort - even in some of the small ways we suggest in the book - to make it a part of their lives. And then they wake up one day and wonder why they are lonely and have no friends.
Q: Is this a generational problem? How do the barriers differ?
RH: It's a problem with both young and old. Older people say stubbornly, "I hardly have time for the friends that I have." Or they don't think they can replace the ones they've lost. The answer is that we all can make a few new friends. You won't have the commonality of fifty years of friendship with someone you just met, but you can have a great intimate friendship with someone new if you choose.
SH: For young people, the barrier is not about "room;" it's more about effort required - or the perception that too much effort is required for our ADD-addled minds and lives to have friends. We hope our book will make it seem easier!
Q: What do you personally value the most about the friendships you have?
SH & RH: We have learned through our experience that when the chips are down, it's your family and your friends that are the only real treasures of your life. As Marlon Brando said: "You ain't livin' if you don't know it." People spend so much time without friendships that they become unable to figure out how to make new friends - that's one of the reasons why we wrote THE ART OF FRIENDSHIP.
We value our friendships for how they help us to understand ourselves better. By challenging each other to be better friends, we become better people, and we are improving the society we live in. True friendship is such a unique thing: in a world of obligations, they are relationships which are entirely voluntary.
Q: Can people use your advice for making business connections?
RH: These rules were not intended for people who want to make business contacts, although they might unintentionally help someone doing so. That's called networking. But if your goal in making a "friend" is for business, you must be clear with the person you're meeting. Of course, you can often make friends through business because of your shared interest.
Q: How would you define a "best friend?"
RH: Sally and I actually don't like this term at all. It's introduced at such a young age, but the truth is, while it's a gift to bestow upon someone, the words can also be a burden, and the reason is because everyone defines "best friend" differently. I believe a "best friend" is someone who accepts you as you are, warts and all, and with whom you feel the most comfortable sharing yourself. But I don't use that term to give value to one friend over another in my own life.
Q: What should people do if they do not want to be friends with someone anymore?
SH: Don't follow our rules! As long as you don't follow up, don't make an effort, don't maintain correspondence, any relationship you have will eventually dissolve! But in all seriousness, subtly growing apart from someone you wish to cease an alliance with is probably the most respectful, non-confrontational way to dissolve a friendship. "Spring Cleaning," as we call it, is a fact of life and friendship - we often grow apart from people we were once close to because they no longer fit into our life experience. We wish more people would "accept the ebb and flow" of friendship (Rule #63) without regret or guilt.
Q: What about resurrecting a friendship that has gotten less important in recent years?
RH: That's one of the most fun and interesting periods of friendship - the rekindling. It's easy (people are usually happy to hear from you, unless the wane in friendship was due to a specific falling out) and satisfying (it's exciting to get caught up after time passage) - and you can go about it in any way that makes sense to you - drop an email, phone call, or send a letter. The reunion will probably ensue soon thereafter.
Q: What about maintaining long distance friendships?
SH & RH: A great portion of the book is dedicated to the art of "follow up," which is most important when real face-to-face interaction has to be delayed, because of living apart from one another. While we all have relationships that are simple to rejuvenate, even after a lot of time has passed, many will die with lack of care and upkeep. Leave a quick voicemail message when you're thinking of your cross-country friend. Send a clipping when an article reminds you of her. And most importantly, make a plan to see each other - even if it means meeting halfway.
Q: Which rule comes with your highest recommendation?
RH: "Express your affection" (Rule #39) is one of the most difficult - for men, anyway - and the most important, in my opinion. Finding a way to let your friends know that their presence in your life means a lot to you is the back bone to any friendship. I'm not talking about being sappy or over-the-top - you figure out the best way to express it.
SH: Gosh, there are so many. But Rule #30 - "Change Your Day-to-Day Habits" is one of the best ways to ensure that you will make new friends. Yes, keeping your "friend antennae" up, is necessary, too, and learning to listen, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, but if you don't create situations in which you will experience new things and encounter new people, you won't ever have the opportunity to expand your circle. Start with walking a new way to work, and graduate to eating lunch with a new group, or talking to strangers.
Q: What is the most important thing readers will take away from this book?
SH & RH: We hope the takeaway will be different for each person: someone who needs a crash course on making initial interactions will be saddled with tips galore; an outgoing friend collector will be reminded of the importance of effort and follow-up; and someone who thinks he may already have "enough" friends may be inspired to open his heart and mind to new ones. Most of all, we think and hope that everyone who reads the book will be inspired to make friendship a priority in his life.
For an interview with Roger Horchow and/or Sally Horchow, please contact: Bill Rogin, 310-858-8200 or