In 1972, Bill Withers released a song that would be his only #1 hit, “Lean on Me“. While many people find it an uplifting song about compassion and hope, I take a different view. It’s the singular essence of being a wingman.
Thanks to Hollywood, society has a mistaken understanding of the term “wingman”. Sure, the smooth operator who knows how to talk to women and can own a party just by walking in is one version, but not the only example. Anyone, of any personality or character traits, can be a wingman.
It’s important to also realize that being a wingman doesn’t have to be purely about hooking your friend up with someone. Virtually any type of social activity can require a good wingman. Maybe you’re new to a city, workplace, or networking event and need to meet some new people, your wingman will have you covered.
As a guy, being offered the wingman duties is a badge of honor. Whoever is asking you to be the wingman not only trusts you, but feels you’re capable of being their social lifeline. It is the incarnation of a real life communal trust fall.
What makes a good wingman?
- Be There
The singular, most important thing about being a wingman for someone else is that you have to be there. It seems obvious, but it’s easy to overlook. Once you start as a wingman, it’s important to see the mission through until completion to ensure the best chances for success.
- Complimentary, Not The Main Attraction.
The wingman is like a spotter for weight lifting or training wheels on a bike. Some lifting is involved, but it shouldn’t be the bulk of the weight or else there’s a problem. A good wingman should always be able to answer “yes” to the following question… “Am I being supportive?”
- Stay Focused.
A recent study found that the average length of the adult, attention span is 12 seconds. Being a wingman will require you to greatly expand upon this time frame. Avoid overly checking your phone, engaging in other activities, or anything else that will compromise your ability to be present both physically and mentally.
- Keep an Overview.
While you are assisting can lose themselves in the moment in trying to get their goal accomplished, it’s imperative you keep your head. There might be some greater constraint of which you need to be aware. Will the bar be closing soon? Do you have a train/bus to catch? Is there another meeting/engagement you have to make sure you attend? There’s a lot of reasons why keeping track of time and schedule is important.
- Know When To Say When.
Sometimes, things don’t work out. For whatever reason, the sledding is tough and you and your partner are not making any headway. While they may be caught up in the moment and continue searching for inroads, it’s vital that a good wingman get a lay of the land and know when to call it.
So now you’re ready to be a wingman. It’s an important job that always has vacancies. As Withers reminds us, “we all need somebody to lean on”