Recently, I got an email from a friend that I hadn’t seen in a while, and this is what it said:

“Dear Vijay, I would like to be able to speak freely to someone that makes me feel safe, shares some of the same values, and who won’t be afraid to provide insight and advice. After reading every one of your Friday Food for Thought emails, I think you are the person I am looking for! It won’t be the happiest conversation you will have this week, but it might make a profound difference for me.”

I was flattered. And as I reread the email, these were the words that stood out to me: “I would like to be able to speak freely to someone that makes me feel safe, shares some of the same values, and who won’t be afraid to provide insight and advice.” This reminded me of something I heard a panelist say at conference I attended back in February: she advised us to not get too caught up with people who love us because their inclination is protect us.

I agree with that statement—to a degree. Yes, the people who love us want to protect us; they have the best intentions for us, as well they should—and we should want that from them. That’s the point of loving someone. As for the rest of her sentiment—not getting too caught with people who want to protect us—this is where we part ways.

Protecting someone isn’t a bad thing; it means you have their best interest in mind. But having someone’s best interest in mind doesn’t always look the same. Sometimes it’s offering up words of affirmation and support—or even a hug. Sometimes it’s providing a safe place to land when that person simply wants to vent. Other times, however, it may include the careful delivery of honest words that may not be all that easy to hear. Honesty, in its own right, is a form of protection.

This friend of mine who reached out to me wasn’t looking for words of agreement or a pat on the back; he was looking for honest words of advice from someone with whom he felt safe and would not judge. He was looking for someone who had his back and would tell it to him straight.

I am part of a group of entrepreneurs who get together on a regular basis to discuss our respective businesses, families and personal lives. A cornerstone of these meetings, and where I’ve found tremendous value through the years, is the truthful exchange of feedback that is shared without judgement. All of us have come to value the honesty we receive from one another, as we are all ultimately trying to help each other to succeed. And that is always my goal when someone comes to me for help.

We all need that person or group of people in our lives who we know will protect and guide us—in whatever form that takes. Who plays that role in your life?

“The people in your life are like the pillars on your porch. Sometimes they hold you up, and sometimes they lean on you. Sometimes it’s enough to know they are standing by.” – Merle Shain

Have a great weekend.
Vijay

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