“When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand
and nothing, whoa, nothing is going right.
Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there
to brighten up even your darkest nights.

You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah,
you’ve got a friend.”


I remembered those lyrics as I spoke to someone recently. He was a successful leader in his organization, well-regarded, encouraged and mentored but wrestling with demons that were becoming pervasive in his thinking.

As someone who has wrestled with my inner voices and was now serving as his coach, I was well-equipped and without the baggage of friendship.

The baggage of friendship?

Friendship should come with the privilege of being able to say anything to someone and not fear retribution but, too often, people hold back on their advice or are not skilled enough to listen carefully for the subtleties to offer anything useful.

The result is advice that does little to help and causes people to feel criticized by what feels like a betrayal.

In addition, being a friend allows people to dismiss wise but difficult advice too easily.

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” when she really does.

I am fortunate to have learned at an early enough age that I need to seek help from experts to help me overcome challenges. At a time that I struggled with a hard choice with my career, I sought out a therapist who spent weeks with me sorting it out. Each week, I would march it, angry, and walk out relieved, having released all the pressure in my emotional teapot.

“Lie down,” he would command.

“No, I’ll fall asleep. You’ll just have to keep looking interested even when you aren’t.”  I was very angry and took it out on him.

But, with time, I realized this bickering wasn’t useful and sought support to remember to play

I had breakfast with several therapists and coaches recently and asked about why people don’t listen to their friends’ advice.

“No skin in the game,” one said. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, there is nothing invested to receive the advice.

“So you’re saying that paying someone makes a person more committed to acting in their own interest,” I followed up.

“Without a doubt. Paying them is the anointing of expert status upon someone. Without that status, people tend to ignore the advice.”

It explains some of the problem but not all of it.

I have noticed people hire coaches and not speak with friends.

“Why didn’t you just speak with a friend,” I would ask.

“I didn’t trust my friends to keep our conversations confidential.”


I wrote an article a few months ago called, “If you want a friend, get a dog”  based upon a line Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) says in the movie, “Wall Street.”

It’s clear from peoples’ behavior that having friendships doesn’t cut it in the advice game. We just don’t trust our friends enough.


© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC  2015


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been a coach and recruiter for what seems like one hundred years.

Follow him at The Big Game Hunter, Inc. on LinkedIn for more articles, videos and podcasts than what are offered here and jobs he is recruiting for.

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