When my FF Fraternity Brother, Billy Lee, invited me to contribute an article for his Friendshipology website, I was flattered and surprised. I was impressed by the thoughts and sentiments of himself and others already on the website, and felt it difficult to add to them !
But he encouraged me nonetheless. So here it goes.
I think most people play golf most often with their friends, and I also often do so. But I also enjoy “walking up” to a golf course and asking if there’s room in a group for me to join in. Often there is a group of less than four, and I can be added on. Needless to say, that means I play a lot with “strangers”.
I’ve spoken with many friends who tell me they would never do that. They fear the group may not be friendly and may not like them, and they are nervous that their golf skills will be viewed with scorn.
Sure, that could happen. But in my experience, it never did, and even if it does, it’s not the end of the world. And so I play Casual Golf with strangers.
When meeting a person for the first time, I start off with the standard questions: Do you play here often? Where do you live? Are you working? What did you do before you retired? I ask these questions to express my interest in them as individuals. From their answers, I get a sense of whether they are interested in sharing. Most often they are, and we go merrily from there.
Now, I think a key part of my approach is just enjoying the game, the company of my new comrades, celebrating their good shots, commiserating their “unfortunate” ones, gentle (and cautious) teasing, and laughing at my own miscues as well as undeserved good luck (my actual best golf attribute). I inevitably find much of interest in my new friends, and always learn something of value or enjoyment. And as importantly, I almost always find that I enjoy their amazing personalities. To me, the scores don’t matter. In one of my songs, I cajoled a golf buddy not to get so upset and overly conscientious in his golf game:
Cast aside your scores and you will find
That failure is just a state of mind.
Close your eyes, you’ll clearly see:
The journey can set your spirit free!
It’s really all about Experiencing the Experience, and I try to do my part to make it fun for all.
As we go through the round, I push gently into certain topics to get a sense of their willingness to express opinions and feelings. If there is resistance, I back off. But usually, we develop trust in each other, a willingness to expose ourselves and risk judgement. And at the end of the round, there is almost always genuine warmth and comradery.
Some may say, why “waste” the time and effort on people you may never see again? But I truly enjoy the time and interaction. Making friends on our path through life, even if fleeting, has value unto itself. And sometimes, we do happen to get matched up again!
I take this same general approach in all my interactions off the golf course: I try to learn about others and let myself be vulnerable to their judgements by gently showing who I am and my personal beliefs.
I believe much of the hatred and fear that seem too common today could not happen if we really knew more about each other. I think if everyone took a little time and interest in really getting to know each other, we would achieve much more than tolerance. We would achieve true Empathy, Understanding…and Friendship.
Billy’s notes: Mike is someone who really knows how to enjoy Life. He loves Work as much as Play. He loves singing and composing songs. He loves drawing cartoons with subtle humor. ( He did the cartoon above ). He loves cooking – Eastern or Western. He loves people and exchanging jokes. He loves his wife Karen – just cooked a special dish for her birthday, a day ago.