Who would you go to lunch with?
I know, weird question, but I got asked it recently. There were rules: It was a Lavish Lunch. You didn’t have to pay for it. You couldn’t choose your partner or family. Nor someone dead.
To be honest, I was fine with that. Why would I select my family for a lavish, free meal when I could have toast with them in the kitchen? And a dead person would make for a pretty quiet lunch.
But it made me think about who I admire. Being a therapist teaches you to see people differently. You learn famous people are just people. You learn money doesn’t equal cool. You learn mental health is the great leveller. And some of the best people are those who have to fight just to get through the day.
So for lunch I’d just choose someone who had the traits I most admire.
Here’s my take on it.
Who Would You Go To Lunch With?
Firstly, they remember the lunch. When they arrive, they smile. They’re cool, not flustered or fitting you in between meetings and/or sharing content from those meetings that are not very interesting to you. Or not at all, actually. By showing up on time, they’re paying you respect. They’re showing you that having lunch with you matters to them.
2. They wear what they‘re comfortable in.
They haven’t spent a fortune on an outfit for lunch. They haven’t spent days trying on outfits to get the right look for this special, lavish lunch (like you have). What they’re wearing seems to match their personality, rather than the dress code for the lunch venue. And it’s clean. Bonus if they smell nice.
It would be cool if they were naturally funny. But they don’t need to have a fledging stand-up comedy career. Loudly regaling the lunch table with “did you hear the one about…” would be weird. Unappealing. And probably quite boring. So, as long as they had a sense of humour and didn’t take themselves too seriously, it would be fine.
4. They ask good questions (but don’t interrogate).
Their ability to ask good questions shows curiosity. It also proves they are listening, that they are interested in subjects — and people — beyond themselves. They’re open and at ease with a few topics and the conversation flows. They ask about you. They find out what matters to you. And they don’t enlist your advice for their current stressors and life dilemmas (particularly unappealing when you are a therapist and you wanted to leave mental health at the office for an hour).
5. They leave their phone in their bag.
They’re not checking their socials, or photographing the warmed bread rolls spread with faux caviar and flicking them up on Insta, or checking their phone to see what invites they might get for that evening. They’re not scrolling the news wires, providing minute-by-minute updates on the state of the world, COVID statistics and which country is poised to go back into lockdown. They’re fully present, in the moment, 100% focused on what’s right in front of them.
6. They’re nice to the wait staff.
Because anything else is poor form. And horrible to be associated with.
7. They speak lovingly of their people.
They don’t gush or take you through the family photo reel on their phone. (Besides, their phone is in their bag, remember?) But when you ask, they speak of their people with love and pride. You just know they care.
8. They don’t judge anyone.
They have opinions but they don’t force them on you. They don’t say mean stuff; they don’t criticise or condemn. They don’t bitch and moan about their partner or mother-in-law. They don’t tell you their daughter’s football coach is an asshole because he dropped her from the team. They don’t have a lash at the outfit of the woman at the next table who has clearly tried awfully hard to dress up for her lunch. They just have a “live and let live” vibe so you know, when lunch is over, they won’t knife you behind your back.
9. They have a spark in their eye.
Something in their world — their work, their art, their sport, their side hustle, their family — makes them excited and when they talk about it, you see it. The way they speak lifts you up, too. You feel better about your own life.
10. When it’s over, you want to plan another lunch.
You just met this person and you enjoyed spending time with them. So you suggest staying in touch. They agree. A couple of weeks later you’re back at lunch. This one is not special or free so you split the bill. Six years later you are still getting together. And it’s no longer lunch. It’s friendship.