When to Be Simon Cowell
Short Take: Friendship
Recently I went on YouTube and watched some clips from Britain’s Got Talent and X-Factor.
Why the devil would I do such a thing?
A simple break was one reason. Another was inspiration. Watching people with different talents (not to mention courage!) motivates me in my chosen self-development/ learning endeavours.
What struck me was how the reactions to a bad performance mirrors the different ways friends deal with certain mistakes you make in Life too.
Judge A may put a most positive slant on things, and give you the message that you’re okay and all is well.
Judge B might be gentle or evasive, sugarcoating the truth so thickly you can’t see it, or see only a half-truth.
And then there’s Simon Cowell.
Simon Cowell is often, in technical terms, an a-hole. His feedback is insulting, cutting, and generally nasty. But however he may frame that feedback (depending on his mood) there is a common thread: it is HONEST. His words can be scathing, but they always cut to the truth.
Many years ago, when I was in Primary school, I was unwittingly doing something that made me the laughing stock of the school. Everyone was laughing behind my back and some had a hard time hiding their laughter in front of it. It was about six months of this before I realized what it was, and found out that a friend knew about it. I asked him why he didn’t warn me about it. His selfish response? “I wanted to preserve the friendship.” I ended the friendship with him on the spot.
Can the truth hurt? Sure it can.
Is telling it risking relations? Sure it might.
But on balance, many a time that’s what we need.
True friendship must dare to risk.
In Life, there will be times people (including us!) screw up. They make bad decisions, or have – by their own doing or just plain bad luck – a bad situation that needs fixing. The problem is they don’t know about it because people are too nice. So they can’t fix or salvage it.
People need to know about an issue, a problem or a mistake in order to fix it, and avoid potentially disastrous consequences.
Sometimes they might even know, but a friend must call them out on it because otherwise, they think it’s ok, and they go on, head-in-sand.
Even if it means you might alienate them, that’s what you do if you really care about their long-term happiness and wellbeing.
To do otherwise to preserve cordiality is selfish, and in cases where it ends in disaster or tragedy, almost a crime in friendship.
It’s what separates True Friendship, and passing, fair-weather acquaintance.
1. Your friend is a chain smoker. You know if this continues, he risks lung disease, heart disease, cancer of the mouth and esophagus in a few years. Chances of reproduction-related problems will be high. This is just the top of a very long list of the ill effects of smoking. His family is also affected by his second-hand smoke. Friends around him have kept silent, even to the extent of enduring his smoking during group gatherings, because they want to “preserve the friendship”. What do you do?
2. Your unhappily married friend is carrying on an affair. She has met someone, a player who can give her the excitement and sense of worth she’s not getting from her current husband, a good but clueless sort who isn’t meeting her emotional needs. She’s not thinking about consequences, just a vague idea this is something temporary and that it will all work out and she can get back to the marriage again. The friends who know are keeping their mouths shut and some are even helping her cover up, to “preserve the friendship.” What do you do?
3. Your friend is a terrible dresser, has body odour and bad breath. People laugh about it behind his back and call him names, and exclude him from all social gatherings. Meanwhile he’s losing job interviews, and wondering why he’s finding it so difficult to get a date and if he does get one, why he never gets a second yes. Since the root cause is sensitive, no one is saying anything in order to “preserve the friendship.” What do you do?
You can be a friend like judge A.
Feign ignorance, tell them it’s ok, they’re doing good, or by silence keep the peace. You may even be a selfish accomplice as they dig a deeper and deeper hole for themselves.
You can be a friend like judge B.
Hinting, hoping they’ll get it. Sure, someone in a situation of comfort or habit is no condition to be alert to subtlety, but hey, at least you tried.
In both these cases your friend will not know the truth and continue in delusion, false security, error, and walk a path to self-destruction or pain.
To be a friend, sometimes you have to be Judge C – Cowell. Simon Cowell.
You need to be clear, forward, blunt, and for the very deluded or blinded, in-your-face. I don’t suggest being as insulting, derisive, and arrogant. But a true friend dares to risk giving that wake-up call or boot to the arse. Be HONEST. Alert them. Remind them.
Because friendship… it’s not just about YOU.