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Srinath Sridharan

Independent markets commentator. Media columnist. Board member. Corporate & Startup Advisor / Mentor. CEO coach. Strategic counsel for 25 years, with leading corporates across diverse sectors including automobile, e-commerce, advertising, consumer and financial services. Works with leaders in enabling transformation of organisations which have complexities of rapid-scale-up, talent-culture conflict, generational-change of promoters / key leadership, M&A cultural issues, issues of business scale & size. Understands & ideates on intersection of BFSI, digital, ‘contextual-finance’, consumer, mobility, GEMZ (Gig Economy, Millennials, gen Z), ESG. Well-versed with contours of governance, board-level strategic expectations, regulations & nuances across BFSI & associated stakeholder value-chain, challenges of organisational redesign and related business, culture & communication imperatives.

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(A)muse & Musings: Fair-weather Friendship

If you decide to stay friends with a fair-weather friend, you must let go of your expectations that they can be sought out, in times of need. And more importantly for any human, it’s self respect and self esteem that’s critical and no one can take it away from them.

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Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all ?”  For a change, let’s look at the concept of fairness, not from skin-tone perspective, but actually get under-the-skin, metaphorically speaking ! 

Covid-impacted society has showcased a wonderful aspect of human camaraderie. The one where strangers came together to assist or attempt to assist people they did not even know. Yet the same society showed us its ugly side. The one that we commonly phrase as “fair weather friendship”. Many a good individual are pained by the sudden behaviour of someone they perceived as their friend. 

A genuine friend is always there to help, in both times of need and to celebrate a win (however insignificant it is).  However, there are some “friends” who are only there in “fortunate and happy” circumstances. That misleading “friendship”, if one can even call it so, is the Fair-weather one. It is by nature, one-sided and with clear objective of use-n-ignore. 

Does money or wealth help in strengthening friendships ? Is it social-standing or positions at work or business ? Is it the exclusive club that one belongs to ? Is it the number of awards one has won ? While most of us would publicly say “no” to all of these, the worldly behaviour seems a lot different. A fair-weather friendship drains a lot of energy for the friend seeking to reach out to her / his fair-weather friend(s). Substitute the word “friendship” with “relationship” and one can apply these to the workplace or business or family or social context, as well. It is everywhere where there are humans. You would have gone through your own loss of friendships &/ you can identify your fair-weather friends. 

Corporate India, like any heterogenous network, has many examples. The misplaced expectation that education would improve values-based behaviour and integrity-based living leads to more heartburn. It’s a common mistake to confuse learning with education, values with lifestyle, and ethics with brilliance. 

Within this one-sided relationship, one could possibly attempt to classify types of such ‘rapport’ :

“We should catch up” friend

The standard and oft-parroted phrase heard, when someone reaches out to that person. The person would be outgoing and keep saying that famous Catch-up phrase; if the catchup happens by accident at the airport or so, it would be the catch-up-of-the-century. And that hurried flight boarding requirement would be the best excuse for curtailing the awkward moment ! So that long pending conversation will never happen; until the day the friend realises that her/his ‘perceived’ friend is only a fair-weather one.

“Can do. But won’t budge.” friend

The person has sufficient network and connects to make things happen for the friend-in-need. It won’t even take time or energy for the person to help. But the person won’t have the inclination and won’t use the network, unless it works up good name or positive outcome for them in return. So in effect, it’s friendly rapport on the face of it, and nothing more. But the person would take the calls and be friendly. Will hear the issues and display warmth & empathy. But will do nothing more.

“Won’t acknowledge.” friend

What if the person asks for help ? So the ‘fair-weather friend’ would avoid even recognising the person, lest (s)he should pitch in with any help ! And of course this type of persons are adept at having such non-recognition even at close quarters, and also will bounce back to “non-amnesia” stage, once they perceive that all is well and / or, if they need any help.

Oosoom friend (not “awesome”) friend

‘Out of sight, out of mind’ (Oosoom) is true for this category. So this type of “fair weather friend” won’t bother about the friend, until something happens for her/his benefit. They will almost ‘resurrect’ miraculously when it’s for their own benefit !

“Thick-skinned Transaction-based” friend

The friend won’t be recognised by the person for long; the person won’t even return messages including the typical Indian courtesy of festive greetings. But when the person needs a favour, without shame or remorse would call the friend and spout the usual  “hope all well” phrase. And then after chatter and banter would ask for that help directly, as if nothing happened to their relationship fabric in the meanwhile ! More importantly, for that person, the friend is actually only a way to (more profitable) means.

People galore

If people want to do something, they will make time for it and make it a priority. That’s a fundamental basis for assessing fair-weather-friendships. Many a times, most of us confuse enquiry with empathy ! In the inter-connected world we live in, we may not be able to avoid people just because they are fair-weather ones.

If you decide to stay friends with a fair-weather friend, you must let go of your expectations that they can be sought out, in times of need. And more importantly for any human, it’s self respect and self esteem that’s critical and no one can take it away from them. 

Srinath Sridharan, Corporate Advisor & Independent markets commentator

Twitter : @ssmumbai