Don’t make enemies, invest in friendships

Enemies are trouble and tear you down. Friends support you and build you up. Building a friendship is not easy, especially when the potential friend could just as easily be your enemy. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor and a lasting investment.

Editor's note: The following is a guest post by Cory Miller, the CEO of iThemes. Cory describes his approach to making friends and avoiding making enemies. You should also check out his recent talk on mental health and entrepreneurship, which is terrific.

I’d rather wave a white flag and compromise than make an enemy. Every. Single. Day.

I’ve purposefully and intentionally, throughout my life (and business), sought to not make enemies, but rather build friendships.

  • Enemies are only trouble.
  • Enemies are distractions.
  • Enemies eat my time and energy and focus.
  • Enemies seek your destruction.
  • Enemies oppose you.
  • Enemies seek to “harm or weaken” you.

Friends do the opposite.

My best example of this is my wife, Lindsey. I think of her as my greatest ally and my best friend. She’s the opposite of an enemy.

The words I use to describe her are “caring,” “supportive,” “loving,” and “wants my best.”

So why would I spend my time seeking to create enemies, instead of friendships?

  • You can have opinions.
  • You can take stands.
  • You can and should draw boundary lines.
  • You can have your principles and never budge on them.

But, you can also, simultaneously, choose to make and focus on friendships.

Some of my best friendships have come through business, and some of them would be considered “competitors.”

But I’ve cherished those friendships.

Additionally, I sleep better at night knowing we only want each other’s best and that there is plenty of room for each other instead of someone actively, purposefully seeking my destruction.

But instead of seeking to fester anger and hate and competition, I’ve sought the opposite, asking, “Where can we find ways to help each other do better for each other?”

So what if we approached life and business like this:

Instead of using that anger, bile, jerk-ness, and negative energy in telling the world who you hate and how big of a jerk you can be, and how you don’t want to be an enemy of — why not seek to build true, lasting, deep friendships?

The old quote, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,” is pure B.S.

Why not create a friend instead of nurture an enemy?

Why not tell the world that you can be the best friend they ever made? And prove it by your actions.

Friendships do take an investment. They take consistency. They take time. They take compromise sometimes. It means showing up for them when they most need it.

But those relationships have been some of the richest relationships I’ve ever had. And totally worth the investment (multiple times over and over in fact).

And yes, I have made enemies in my life. Purposefully and sometimes not. In fact, someone recently asked me jokingly on Twitter who didn’t like me. I responded with:

“I can think of 1 or 2 a-holes but I don’t like thinking about them. 🙂 hahahahaha”

And although that’s sadly true, I’ve sought to minimize the enemies I’ve made in my life and business.

My perspective on making necessary enemies is that if you have to make an enemy — and when I say that, I don’t mean because your personality defaults to that of a jerk and you sadistically like being labeled one), but you have to make an enemy because you have to set a boundary and tell someone no, or take a legal action — make dang sure it’s either for a very good purpose, value or strategic reason.

And even then, question yourself about why.

As my attorney told me recently: “You catch more flies with honey.”

So don’t be a jerk while making enemies. You’ll make more enemies in the process.

Simple, lip-biting kindness in the face of anger and hate and bile helps deflate a situation rather than pour lighter fluid on it.

I tell people often: it doesn’t cost me anything to be nice and kind. (In fact most of the time it makes me happier.) And I seek out different avenues to vent my frustration and relieve my stress.

So I say: Don’t make enemies. Invest in friendships.

It should be common sense, but sometimes I (and maybe you) need a reminder.