There are a lot of different levels of friendship. There is the guy in the cubicle next to you at work who you don’t really like all that much, but who you still introduce to your significant other as your friend because you don’t want to create awkwardness at work. There is the guy you see every day at the gym who shares your appreciation for classic cars and dark beer’ but who you otherwise don’t really know. Then there are the guys (and by guys I mean men and women, broadly speaking) you know well, whose company you enjoy, and who appear in your wedding pictures, who remember your birthday every year and who you can rely on for favors.
Favors. Ugh! There are few questions more terrifying than “Would you mind doing me a favor?” A favor can mean anything. If I pass the pepper across the table, I am doing someone a favor. It may be the courteous thing to do and I might be a jerk if I don’t do it, but it is still a favor because I am not obligated to do it. The thing is, if someone wants me to pass the pepper, they will ask me to pass the pepper. They won’t preface it with the dreaded “Would you mind doing me a favor?”
When friends do ask specifically for favors, it is a sign that something big is coming. Often, even for the best of friends, when we hear the word favor, our minds start to spin. What am I about to be asked? What if I don’t want to undertake the favor? What excuses can I find? Quickly.
Usually when friends ask for favors to be performed, the friend is going to (i) save money and (ii) avoid inconvenience. The person asked to perform the favor is not likely to suffer any costs, but inconvenience is a real possibility. Often, too, the nature of the favor asked will tell a person a lot about the way he is perceived. After all, there is a reason that your friends will ask you to do something that they might never ask others to do.
Of course, some favors are not that big a deal. Giving a friend a ride home when his home is on your way is not a big deal and you would likely offer that anyway. Giving a friend a ride home at 2 in the morning when it will add half an hour to your driving time and you have to get up for work in the morning — that is a big deal.
Taking in your neighbor’s mail and newspaper each day for a week while she is on a business trip is not a big deal. If she asks you to walk her dog three times a day or to watch her cats, that might be another matter altogether. Driving her to the airport is a big deal. Picking her up at the airport at 11:30pm is an even bigger deal. Helping someone move is always a big deal.
In each instance, your friends could have paid someone to have assisted them. At 2am, your friend could probably have called for a cab. Your next door neighbor could have hired a pet sitting service and she could also have taken a cab to or from the airport. People who are moving can always hire movers. Often, however, they try to save some money by asking friends for help.
As long as friends who seek help are also willing to offer it, relationships will tend to work. Friends also need to realize who among their friends can realistically offer the help that is needed. Perhaps most importantly, when a friend does offer help, they must be appreciated for it.
What have your friends asked you to do for them? What have you asked your friends to do for you? What kinds of favors do you think cross the line?