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A Real Friend? Or A Deal Friend?


One day after getting off the phone, Dr. Arthur Brooks's 11-year old son asked who he had been talking to.

"Just doing a business deal with a friend, son," Dr. Brooks responded.

Some weeks later after completing another phone call, the son asked who his dad had been talking with, to which Dr. Brooks responded "just a friend."

"A deal friend, dad? Or a real friend?," the son asked, genuinely curious to know.

That question served as an epiphany for Dr. Brooks, as it prompted him to deeply consider his son's innocent yet loaded question.

As Dr. Brooks points out, there's nothing wrong with having "deal friends" - living in communities and being involved with various activities and programs for our children naturally creates friendships that may not run deep in emotional ties but count as friendships nonetheless.

In a 2021 survey, Americans reported having less close friendships than they did 30 years prior. Dr. Brooks has made it his mission to help people understand that prioritizing truly meaningful friendships that go far beyond being transactional is one of the most important determinants of how happy and healthy we are as we age.

In my view, today's social media-driven world naturally promotes friendships that spread out over countless kilometres but don't run more than a few centimetres deep. Real friendships that feel rooted down toward the earth's core are what make our lives rich and beautiful like no other factors can.

How can we have such friendships? As Gandhi might have advised, we can be the friend we wish to have.


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