Friendship- its Origins, Evolution, & Future

By James Luce – Author of CHASING DAVIS – Feb. 2020

A dear friend and colleague at The 1990 Institute Executive Committee, James always thought that the word Friendshipology is not quite right. He suggests that I use G.I.F.T. The Global Institute for Friendship & Teaching – in lieu of Friendshipology


Question One: Which word in the following set doesn’t belong ? Empathy, Love, Animosity, Loyalty

Answer: The second word in the set: Love

 The reason love is the odd word out in this set is because all the other words are of ancient evolutionary origin and are all emotions genetically and behaviorally expressed by many non-human species over millions of years…whereas love in the romantic sense didn’t appear until at the earliest a mere 800-years-ago in the songs of wandering Provençal troubadours…and, of course, love is exclusive to our species.

Question Two: What is the definition of Friendship ?


     It depends on where you are in time. Today friendship is frequently defined as someone who is not a family member or lover for whom we feel affection/affinity/empathy/loyalty, with whom we share similar moral values, and on whom we rely for emotional support. You’ve heard that old saying “We chose our friends, but we’re given our families”. Yet 200,000-years-ago, when our fledgling species was struggling to genetically differentiate itself from other primates, friendship was exclusively limited to kin…members of our clan…on whom we relied for our very physical survival. 

          The definition of friendship also depends on where you are geographically. In some contemporary cultures, as in ancient times, kinship is the dominant, determining factor…such as the Xhosa in South Africa. In other cultures friendship may extend beyond kinship but is long in gestation and grand in its mutual obligations…such as in France. In the USA friendships are basically unrelated to kinship; many such relationships form instantaneously/transiently like bubbles blasting out of a champagne bottle…and are often soft, ambiguous connections that are much sought after in quantity but frequently short-shrifted in quality.

Question Three:

Are there any global, culturally universal common denominators determining friendship?

          Perhaps…but none that have yet been verified by any properly controlled study or investigation that I’ve found. However, there’s a recent, reasonably rigorous Oxford University anthropological study (1) that has isolated seven candidates for universally accepted moral values. This study investigated sixty different cultures representative of our global diversity. Because shared moral values is one of the common characteristics of friendship, these seven provide insight into a common denominator for how friendship can work globally…and why it’s imperative now that it must work.

The seven universal moral values are: help your family; help your group; return favors; be brave; defer to superiors; divide resources fairly; respect others’ property.

          Given that all humans are genetically related and have been for over 200,000 years, it’s not merely coincidental that 29% of these shared characteristics are based on direct kinship; that 57% deal with cooperation within the group; and that 100% of them deal with preservation of the group…emphasizing the paramount importance of cooperation.

Perhaps surprisingly, these statistics are in stark contrast with the world’s major religions.

          The three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) all accept the same basic Ten Commandments.(2) Yet only one of the seven globally accepted moral characteristics (14%) is included in the Ten Commandments (#8: the admonition to not steal) and only 40% of the Commandments deals with group preservation. 

Buddhism doesn’t have a “Ten Commandments” but it does have five traditional “rules” which are startlingly similar to the Ten: do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not lie and don’t use intoxicants. Excluding the first four of the Ten (which deal with worshiping a specific deity and thus have no place in Buddhism), there’s an 80% overlap between the Abrahamic and Buddhist rules but, again, only a 14% overlap with the Universal Seven.

Hinduism’s Ten Commandments equivalent is difficult to identify, but traditionally the following seven are accepted as the “rules of behavior”: austerity, tranquillity, non-violence, non-adultery, non-corrupt, no stealing or coveting, no lying. These are similar to the Abrahamic and Buddhist set, but again there’s only a 14% overlap with the Universal Seven.

Thus, there’s no correlation between what people universally believe are the core characteristics of morality on the one hand and the rules advocated by their respective religions on the other.  This perhaps helps to explain in part why interfaith and international friendships can be formed. More on this topic after the quiz. 

Question Four: Which came first: Friendship or Controlled Use of Fire ?

Answer: Friendship came first…by at least 183 million years.

While there’s substantial evidence that our ancient ancestors (Australopithecus…Greek for “southern ape”) learned how to use fire about 1.7 million years ago, the origin of what became known as friendship (kin cooperation between social mammals) dates back as far as 185 million years ago to the first “pre-mammal” social species such as the tiny cat-like Kayentatherium.   Thus, even in its most primitive form, friendship helped our very distant ancestors survive and thrive during the Age of Dinosaurs.

Humans didn’t invent friendship, Evolution did.

Some species don’t make friends – even though they practice kin cooperation

          All species that live together in large groups cooperate with their kin, but not all such species make friends within their kinship group. For example, all social mammals make friends within their kinship group, but fish, ants, and bees do not. Why is that?

          The search for an answer to this question dates back thousands of years. How was it, for example, that bees “know” how to collectively build and protect a hive, serve their queen, find pollen and return home, make honey, nurture the young…in short, cooperate for survival of the species? Certainly bees didn’t attend school for sixteen or more years as would a human require to learn similarly difficult skills.

After centuries of false starts and wild conjectures, in the late 19th-century the concept of “instinct” was thought to explain all these complex behaviors. An instinct is genetically programmed by evolution. The behaviors exhibited are complex, rigid, invariable, specific to each species, and, of course, unlearned. Humans, being special, didn’t have any instincts. Back then it was believed that our behaviors were too cerebral, too sophisticated, too learned, and too divinely inspired to be merely instinctual. Instead, as with all other animals, humans had various, amorphous “drives” (hunger, thirst, procreation, survival etc.)…but no instincts. Unlike bees, we had no rigid set of genetic instructions as to how to fulfil these drives…how to hunt, how to find water, how to find a mate, how to build a dwelling, how to invent the bow and arrow, or even how to change a diaper.

But science marches on.

By the late 20th-century we’d learned that all human behaviors (as well as the behaviors of all other species) were genetically determined but modified by both experience and the environment.(3) The difference between humans, other mammals, and insects is a matter of the relative degree of rigidity of the genetic impulses and the variable extent to which environment/experience impact behaviors.

Genetically controlled behaviors of bees are modified only by genetic mutations and are altered only by extremes in the environment such as fire, earthquake, drought, injury, and disease. In contrast, human behaviors are both modified and altered by relatively minor environmental/experiential variables (e.g. minor variations in upbringing, cultural expectations, and even temperature). Bees are like steel, whereas humans are like ice cubes. Steel remains solid so long as it isn’t placed in a blast furnace at 2,500º F. Ice cubes remain solid unless taken from the freezer and left on the kitchen counter, a difference of as little as 0.1º F. 

As with all animals that live in large groups, bees must cooperate or go extinct. Bees don’t have to make friends in order to cooperate…so they don’t. There’s no genetic blueprint in bees coded for friendship or anything like it. Bees cooperate with each other because they have no choice or even an ability to make choices. Evolution is very stingy and doesn’t approve of wasted genes or wasted expenditure of metabolic energy.

Humans live in large groups, so we also must cooperate or go extinct. Our problem at the moment is that long ago we evolved a highly sophisticated choice-making mechanism called our cerebral cortex. Evolution expended an immense genetic fortune on this “choice box” because it was an extremely useful tool for survival…or at least it was for the first 200,000 years.  Our species differentiated itself (filled its own unique environmental niche) in part by allowing each member of the species to make choices about almost everything…an extravagant capability unheard of even among our closely related primate relatives.

In terms of sheer numbers, our species is the most successful large mammal that has ever evolved.(4) In terms of the longevity of our species the answer is still out. Somewhere along the relatively short evolutionary road from our beginnings to where we are today we goofed, left something behind, took a wrong turn.

According to the Doomsday Clock (5), we “civilized” humans are closer to ending all life on this planet than at any time since the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Back then the Clock was set at seven minutes before midnight. On January 23, 2020 the Clock was reset to 100 seconds before midnight, the shortest time ever recorded.(6) You’re supposed to brush your teeth every morning for a longer time than that. 

So what went gone wrong with our unique cerebral choice box?

Our species has faced extinction at least once before, when the Doomsday Clock (had it existed) would have been at five seconds before midnight as far as human life on Earth was concerned. Geneticists have determined that all humans today are the descendants of between 1,000 and 10,000 Homo sapiens, a tiny remnant of people who somehow survived some sort of catastrophe about 70,000-years-ago.(7) It’s uncertain what the cause was of this first near-extinction of our species, but it certainly wasn’t due to human activity.

Not true today.

Scientists moved the Clock setting this year due to a variety of changes over the last year, all of which are the caused in whole or in large part by human activity: climate change is speeding up, nuclear arms treaties are collapsing, population and forced immigration continues to rise, and global tensions between the major nuclear powers are heating up faster than our atmosphere and oceans.

 Seventy-thousand-years-ago our species managed to survive because whatever the cause was it was transitory, insufficient to finish us off. We didn’t need any new skills to survive.

Again, not true today.

Unlike in the remote past, today we’re all in one big kinship group whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not. In the remote past all tribes were remotely scattered and self-sufficient. When tribes did meet and conflict (not cooperate) there was no loss of self-sufficiency. Each tribe could hunt and grow its own food, build its own housing, find its own water, make its own clothing, tools, weapons, and maintain its only source of energy…fire…for heat, light, and protection. All of these functions were the result of close kin cooperation.  This cooperation was both ingrained (genetically based) and learned from our kin as children from the time we were babies. Cooperation came as naturally to our ancestors as was the tribe’s spoken language. The skills necessary for survival were known by everyone in the tribe. Some did better at some tasks than others, but everyone could pitch in at almost any task when needed. Tribe A did not need Tribe B to survive.

Once again, not true today.

In today’s world few of us know how to hunt or grow food, build our own housing, find our own water, make our own clothing, tools, weapons, or provide our own source of heat and light, or how to protect ourselves against bandits and bears. Even huge “kin” groups such as cities are collectively capable of performing only a few of these functions, but not all of them. Instead, we rely on something that is evolutionarily totally unnatural, totally without genetic basis…it’s a new form of cooperation held together, not be genes and lessons from our mother’s knee, but rather the glue is made up of complex and often indecipherable business contracts, labor/management agreements, legislation, treaties, international trade agreements, vast systems of international transportation, highly costly and incomprehensible-to-most-people scientific and engineering research and development done in a language few of us can understand, let alone duplicate. Tribal conflicts of brief duration with not-usually-lethal consequences have been replaced by ceaseless wars with weapons of devastating destruction. We no longer have shared rules of either peace or conflict.

Tribe A can no longer survive without Tribe B.

In summary, over the 10,000 of “civilizing” ourselves we’ve lost or severely repressed the ancient genetic compulsion to cooperate even with our immediate kinship group, let alone with an immense, scattered one. Things have deteriorated so badly that we now are forced to teach parents how to socialize their children and even teach teachers how to socialize their students. What a mess.

We must now turn to the other side of the cooperation coin…conflict, hatred and distrust of “different” tribes. Way back when, survival depended not only on intra-tribal cooperation, but also on communal distrust and fear of other tribes. Why? Because other tribes competed for the same resources. Genes in tribes that did not code for conflict-with-the-Others soon disappeared because anyone not so coded wasn’t likely to live long enough to reproduce. Infants were taught not only to cooperate with friends and family, but also to hate and kill those not of the tribe.

Over the millennia tribes grew into nations, each with their own language, religion, customs, and taboos. Conflict with the Other became ingrained not only in our genes but also in our cultures. As noted lyrically in that insightful song from South Pacific “You have to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year…you’ve got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made and people whose skin is a different shade…”

If our species is to survive into the next century we must immediately start teaching our children that we are all part of one vast Tribe of Humanity with its seven billion members and also teach them that intra-cooperation within that Tribe is as essential to us now as it was way back then for intra-cooperation between tiny little kinship groups of a few dozen people.

The difficulty is that we have never experienced millions of years of evolutionary coding for cooperation within something as big and diverse as the Tribe of Humanity. We must rely entirely on educating our young. It’s too late to teach the vast majority of adults whose mind and behaviour sets are too rigidly in place to be so fundamentally altered as to actually “cooperate with both thy close and distant neighbour” no matter what the race, creed, or cultural quirks that particular and extremely different neighbor may display.

How that crash course in global cooperation and friendship is to be implemented I leave to people who are wiser, younger, and more administratively competent than am I. A good start would be a fully funded and staffed organization operating under the name of Global Institute for Friendship and Teaching.

OBT, James


  1. Seven Moral Rules Found All Around the World: links to two articles on the subject and the full study around the world

2. Islam views the Old and New Testaments to be earlier and genuine revelations from Allah.

3. Details of this interaction are the topic of what’s known as The Nature v. Nurture Debate…that is, to what extent are behaviors controlled by our genes or by our environment/experiences.

4. Nobody’s counted them, but it’s estimated that both rodents and bats outnumber humans. Excluding them, we’re number one in terms of population size.

 5. The Doomsday Clock…its history

6. The Doomsday Clock…its current setting

7. Whatever the cause, we’re descended from only a relatively few people:

Links to additional reading:

  1. The origins and meaning of instinct, NCBI:
  2. The history of friendship and why it’s important:
  3. The evolution of friendship: 
  4. Variability of moral values globally:
  5. The differences between Chinese and American business ethics:      


Vic Young is my FF (Chinese Fraternity) Brother. Our Friendship deepens as we share ideas and insights. His letter below – titled ” Won’t you Be My Neighbor?” indeed inspires and challenges me at the same time. What I learn most distinctly from his letter is that “To Become Good Neighbors or Friends it usually starts with an easy “Hello”, followed by building Honest, Caring, Civil and Empathetic Mutual Respect, and Understanding. It”s more complex for us Chinese Americans in the United States today. “

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? by Vic Young

Bro. Billy,

You have been consistent over your life about living and leading with “friendship” and your current endeavors on your FRIENDSHIPOLOGY INITIATIVE.  I am humbled and daunted by your request to comment on the subject.

It reminds me of the sermon I heard years ago.  My pastor at our church was returning to the Bay Area from a trip.  He settled into his seat on the plane next to a gentleman.  After the seat belt sign was turned off, the gentleman struck up a conversation to break the ice with the pastor.

“What do you do for a living?”

“I am a pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.”

Not the response he was expecting, the gentleman nervously said, “Great.  I get it.  Do the right thing, turn the other cheek, do unto others…..”

Trying to keep the conversation going, the pastor asked the gentleman, “and what line of work are you in?”

The gentleman responded, “I am an astrophysicist.”

The pastor said with a smile, “oh, let me see.  Twinkle, twinkle, little star.”

Such is “friendship.”  There is more to it than meets the eye.  There is always context.  It is not always sugar and spice.

“Friendship” is often taken for granted. It is something that is often difficult to articulate or more importantly to demonstrate.

As fraternity brothers, our relationship is founded and perpetuated by friendship and fellowship.  Fraternal bonding is another conversation.

Your FRIENDSHIPOLOGY work addresses a broader audience. Friendship is like spinach; it is good for you, but…

I choose not to delve into this academically (philosophy, history, social and psychological impacts); nor with quotes and slogans. Well, maybe one slogan?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

That is the highly successful award-winning 2018 documentary film about Fred Rogers and his iconic children’s television show on PBS that guided generations.

Now, we are awaiting the release of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks portraying America’s most beloved neighbor. It is about overcoming skepticism, learning about empathy, kindness, and decency.

Variety Magazine noted:  “behind the smile lay a weird sort of tough-nut faith that made him willing to look at dark things, and a philosophy of life that can only be described as…love. As in: love your children, love thy neighbor, love yourself. Fred Rogers may have come off, on TV, like a walking piece of kitsch, but the real truth is that this ordained Presbyterian minister was the world’s squarest Middle American flower child.” I did not know he was a minister.

The question is what is Mr. Rogers about, on-screen and in real life?  He really wants to be your “neighbor, to be your friend.”

Why is there interest in and anticipation of Mr. Rogers’ story through these two films?  It is not nostalgia. Simply, people need something to lift them up and to find new meaning in this world going through seasons of division, darkness, chaos, anxiety. 

Most of us do not know our neighbors.  We do not always act like neighbors.  We are constantly in transition. We are too busy with our own priorities and our own business to be neighborly and to be “friends.”

We need Mr. Rogers to move into our neighborhood.  He exudes friendship and love – love your children and love your neighbors.

We need to be like Mr. Rogers.  We need to be good Samaritans.

Friendship is the Golden Rule. Friendship is spiritual.

Today, it can be a challenge.  Friendship has also evolved in this modern society. In the past, friendships drastically differed; motivated by protection.   In the past, people chose to make friends for survival and protection from other people who bullied you. In the present society, people choose their friends for who they are of many qualities that make them connect to each other. Friendship has become more diverse ethnically and culturally. As time passes, the society we live in has changed the friend into someone of the ideal friend for themselves for comfort.

Friendship is a distinctive kind of concern for your friend, a concern which might reasonably be understood as a kind of love, Agape.  This is a kind of love that has come through the Christian tradition, by extension, our love for God and our love for humankind in general. It is the latter I think you are focusing on.

This does not mean it is easy.  Belonging to one another despite diversity and differences still plagues society.

 “Friendship” in today’s world needs to extend beyond your typical examples and outreaches in order to address the ills of the world. Friendship may mean that, for a moment, it is not focusing on your needs, but those of others.  This means turning the status quo on its head.

We, the world, need “friendship” more than ever.  We need not go into what is happening in the U.S. today, a deeply divided nation.

There are realities, but we are driven by mostly fear, presumption, intellect, biases, and definitions.

We cannot solve every problem out there, but we can make a small difference.

We have a severe homeless problem in our state.  Who knows when the problem will be solved?  Heretofore, like many people, I focused more on the discomfort of their presence and motives rather than their plight.

It is easy for us to walk past a homeless person, quickly.  It is as if they don’t exist, because we choose not to see them.  Yes, some are just pan-handling and others have serious mental problems.  Instead of rushing past them, is there one of them that would feel better if we just looked at them and acknowledged their existence, let alone part with $1 or a Big Mac?

Charity and kindness, not judgment and analysis.

What do you do when “spies and illegal aliens” move into the neighborhood?

Driven by the current leadership in Washington, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, and now the Chinese have been unnecessarily painted black, so they fade from sight. Racial profiling of Chinese in America is trending again.

Our government acts as if they suspect all Chinese, including Chinese Americans, and are willing to suspend civil and legal rights. Most importantly, they are fostering racism throughout the country in pursuit of security.  This is not just about the FBI, but Americans.  We have not learned from mistakes of the past and what happened to the Japanese and others around the world?  We need to speak up and make all Americans understand what should be done and what should not be done.

For us, the Chinese, we cannot hide from both sides of the issue and simply protest the obvious.  There are bad Chinese in America among us and trying to steal technology and thus endangering national security. 

Friendship means not conforming to patterns of the world. Don’t get to a default mode or safe posture. This is the USA. Where is the idea of freedom, if not friendship?  Friendship and civility do not trump (no pun intended) vigilance and security.

Friendship also means that we may be bolder and more tender.  That’s what enables solutions, reconciliation, forgiveness, family and safe communities.  Friendship is a beautiful neighborhood.


By Billy Lee – January 2020

Rushton Hurley, Founder and Executive Director of Next Vista for Learning ( ),  read the article, ’Seven Tips To International Friendship’ from . He immediately approached me and asked for an introduction to the author, Jeremi Snook, Executive Director of Journey- Friendship Force International  ( ).

Indeed, it gave me great pleasure to arrange this connection, because both of them are devoted to the same cause, and both have established platforms to promote THE SPIRIT OF INTERNATIONAL CROSS-CULTURAL FRIENDSHIP! It made my Winter Holidays 2019 the happiest One, indeed!

Andover Classmate George Rider, who attended Yale as I, sent out a challenge to our Andover-Princeton friends to submit news for the Andover Alumni News Magazine.  Within two days, two classmates responded although neither of them attended Princeton. One wrote joyfully in high spirit, but he informed us that he was writing to us from a Hospice. Yes, Jocko and I were both considered ‘Foreign Students’ at this New England Prep-school – I was from exotic Shanghai and he from the wild-west Wyoming. I decided to reconnect with him. I wrote to him with an attached video about Chinese Opera and told him that during my childhood days in Shanghai, my father had bought two ponies for my brother and me. My pony was especially sweet and proper. It always trotted behind my elder brother’s slightly taller fella. Subsequently I suffered quite a few times the accidents from behind-the-tail. I also asked him to check out the Chinese opera singing. They actually sound very similar to the famous howling winds in Western Wyoming.  Jocko countered with pictures of his cowboy country and said that he really enjoyed our holiday exchanges. Indeed, Jocko and I played soccer together at Andover in 1950-51. Both at the forward line had practiced swift short passes back and forth to each other. Now we are happy to connect by email, from wherever we are. This is what I call Rekindling Happy Childhood ( possibly Childish ) Friendship after age 85.

I was thinking about what meaningful experiences to share with good friends during this Holliday Season. I decided to explore various MOMENTS. Yes, there are the ‘AH-HA’ Moments. ‘MAGIC’ Moments, ‘MOST CONFUSED’ Moments, ‘FRIGHTENING- PANIC’ Moments,  and ‘WAKE-UP-CALL’ Moments, etc. etc.. Sharing intimate and personal MOMENTS, I believed, enhances BONDING.

A most ‘Magic Moment’ I had ever experienced was that morning when I arranged for a group of middle school students from Menlo Park, California to travel to Beijing to do a mural painting together with a selected group of Chinese students at the China National Children Center.  As the Chinese students, teachers, and their family members noticed that the American Guests had arrived at the main gate, 15 designated painter students started to line up in one row and their teachers and parents gathered behind them.  The American students without instructions instinctively marched forward and lined up in a row opposite the Chinese students, and their teachers and parents lined up behind them.  Ms Chen, the Chinese Activities Director, cheerfully welcomed the American guests and suggested to the students who were going to paint together to first close their eyes but stretch out their arms and walk slowly towards each other. That person whose hands they touch was to be his or her Painting Partner for the weekend.  The students had various facial expressions with their eyes closed – some anxious, some curious, some more determined, and few naughty with mischievous thoughts. Amazingly most adults from both sides were in AWE. They looked intensely at the children who were about to touch each other. Some smiled with lips sealed, a few were in tears. They, including myself, felt a special MAGIC MOMENT There is HOPE for PEACE, PURE FRIENDSHIP AND GOODWILL for our future generations.

IN PROMOTING FRIENDSHIPOLOGY, MEET ANOTHER ENLIGHTENED FRIEND : Jeremi Snook – President/CEO of Friendship Force International (FFI)

Seven Tips To International Friendship by Jeremi Snook Dec.2019

The Christmas Truce in World War I is one of the most remarkable stories in our world’s history.  French, Scottish and German soldiers on both sides spontaneously climbed out of the trenches on the Western Front on Christmas Eve and began sharing cigarettes, champagne, and family photos with one another. This moment in time is a shining example of how simply friendship is forged and how peace, an unintentional consequence of friendship, can profoundly affect the world around us.

In the early 1900’s, few people had the resources to participate in the long, arduous, expensive process associated with international travel. Today, however, each one of us has an incredible opportunity to build meaningful connections with others around the world, whether we are hosting international visitors in our city or traveling abroad.  For over 40 years, members of Friendship Force International, a nonprofit dedicated to intentionally bringing people of different cultures together, have been doing just that. We’ve taken some of the best advice from their experiences to put together seven tips to help you build international friendship:

  1. Google it. What major holidays do they celebrate? What are the latest headlines? What are their customs and history? Today, over half the world is online, and most of us carry the internet in our pockets. Taking even a few minutes to do some research about the country in which your new friends live can make a world of difference in your first conversations.
  2. Learn a few phrases in their native language. Whether you dust off that old Spanish book from high school, jump online and search for a few translations, or go on YouTube to learn how to pronounce the words correctly, taking a few minutes to learn basic greetings will help you feel more connected and while seriously impressing your new friends. Hello, good-bye, thank you, how are you, do you speak English (or other language you know), and cheers are a great start. Write the phrase phonetically on a small piece of paper and carry it with you for quick reference…and don’t worry if it’s not perfect, because to your new friends, it’s the thought that counts!
  3. Learn their customary greetings. This is especially important when you are a visitor in a new country. Do they bow? Do they shake hands? Do they kiss each other on the cheek? Do they kiss on both cheeks? Are the greetings the same for women as it is for men? What do you say when you first greet someone? It is easy to overlook local customs and just extend a hearty handshake, which in most cases is fine, but taking the time to learn local customary greetings shows your willingness to learn and adapt. It also goes a long way in demonstrating respect and appreciation for what makes you different from one another. And like trying to speak a language for the first time, it is okay if it’s not perfect, because your new friends will be endeared by your willingness to try.  
  4. Be prepared to share family photos. For most of us, long gone are the days of the accordion of wallet size photos we used to carry around.  Today, we are fortunate to carry thousands (and for some, tens-of-thousands) of photos wherever we go on our smartphones and tablets. This is great until you realize that the family photo you want to share is buried somewhere behind hundreds of photos of your dog or the things you just listed on eBay. Take time to assemble a special folder on your smart device with only a handful of carefully selected photos that are ready to share with your new friends. Being able to virtually meet your family and friends is a great way to immediately build a lasting bond.
  5. Gifts are great. There are many ways to express gratitude and thanks. Often the easiest and most memorable for your new friends is to give a memento of something relevant to your hometown or culture.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, and should be light and small enough to pack. And if traveling by air, think twice about liquids or perishables. If someone is visiting you, it is a nice greeting to have a gift for them upon arrival. And if you are traveling, you never know when that special moment will arise, or who else you might meet along the way, so bring a few things with you to give.     
  6. Stay curious. Most people are eager to share about themselves and their culture.  When meeting someone for the first time, never shy away from questions to better understand your new friends and how they live.  Do they have a shrine in their home or a temple in their yard? Do they dress in a way different from yourself? Did you witness a ceremony or ritual that you had never seen before? Whatever it is, developing a broader understanding of the world requires that we stay curious, ask questions and listen with understanding.
  7. Prepare your mind and open your heart. There is a poster that exists in almost every school library in the US that says, “Your mind is like a parachute – it only functions when open.” In order for your assumptions about other people to be challenged and your views about the world to be changed, you must give yourself permission to fully appreciate the experience. So often, our own prejudices, biases, and opinions prevent us from seeing the world from another person’s perspective.  As a result, we may miss out on an ideal opportunity to expand our understanding of the world around us and connect with people different from ourselves in a meaningful and lasting way.  In other words, approach meeting people from a country and a culture different from your own with an open mind and an open heart. Before you know it, you will find yourself surrounded by new friends! 

What tips do you have from your travels?



Friendship Force International provides opportunities to explore new countries and cultures from the inside by bringing people together at the personal level. Through the signature program of home hospitality, local hosts welcome international visitors into their culture, sharing with them meals, conversation, and the best sights and experiences of their region. 


Billy Ming Sing Lee –李名信 – November 26, 2019 

People generally regard Friendship or Having Wonderful Friends extremely important in life.  As the world gets more interconnected, all of us now want to seek understanding and bonding with good people from different countries to share what I simply call “ Wonderful Connecting”.  In this article, I like to introduce to you a remarkable friend of mine – an American Woman, a Teacher, a Mother, a creative Innovator, and a courageous Dreamer-Doer.

Prof. Anabel Jensen will be celebrating her 80th birthday on Nov. 26, 2019. We met in August 2016 via an introduction by a mutual good friend, Ann McCormick. who knew that I was doing research on Friendship, Empathy, and Compassion and could really learn more from “ Dr. Jensen “- President of Six Seconds and professor of education, Anabel Jensen, Ph.D., is a master teacher and a pioneer in emotional intelligence education. A two-time Federal Blue Ribbon winner for excellence in education, she was Executive Director of the Nueva School in San Mateo, California from 1983 to 1997 where she helped develop the Self-Science curriculum featured in Daniel Goleman’s 1995 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence.

I found her remarkable when we first met. Instead of trying to impress me with vast knowledge and high intellect, she readily embraced me as an old trusted friend. She was both open and warm. There was no air of self-pride or conceit. She did show ambition, however, hoping to enable Six Seconds – her Emotional Intelligence Network -to reach a Billion People Practicing EQ globally in five years, but that was really her way of expressing dedication to her Cause and commitment to Hard work.

Mission of Six Seconds is: To help all people learn to know themselves, choose themselves, and give themselves. Vision: To co-create an emotionally intelligent world. … Strategy: Six Seconds works directly with schools, organizations, and businesses to bring emotional intelligence into practice. Emotional Intelligence helps people to relate to each other more wisely and more harmoniously for a Better World. With help from colleagues like Susan Stillman, Joshua Freedman, and many other very dedicated colleagues, Six Seconds has indeed reached out globally via “Partner with an EQ Expert” – now over 150 countries  ( including China ). With pride and joy, on Nov. 20th they celebrated, in partnership with UNICEF, by bringing EI ( Emotional Intelligence ) to children and adults around the world on this Universal Children’s Day.

While the What and Why can be succinctly explained, the How and When is an Art  in implementation. Anabel Jensen’s Noble Goal is “balance Accountability & Compassion so that ethical decisions will flood the globe”. Her favorite EQ competency is Exercise Optimism

In her April 2006 blog, she told about her 10-year old son’s distress over his much-adored father’s uncommon death. This was the way she comforted him: “Caleb, this crisis is isolated. Yes, our immediate family is dramatically affected, but we still have Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Pat, and Aunt Tamie. And Caleb you have so many loyal and supportive friends.” “This will not last forever; time will ease the disillusionment and the pain.” “Caleb, we can grow and become stronger if we look at this as an opportunity rather than a total disaster. Caleb I know you can find the courage to face this problem.” Anabel gave much credit to Martin Seligman’s book “ Learned Optimism”. She concluded “ If I could only teach my child one lesson, I would teach how Adversity can be gilded with Hope.

Prof. Jensen’ intellectual curiosity is another dimension I admire and marvel at.

In her August 2019 blog, she described wondering before drifting off to sleep: “what life would be like without words.” She imagined bodies shining in different colors in reflecting inner emotions. She coined it Emo-Shine: What an Imaginary World with visible Emotions can Teach us about Language, Labeling Emotions, and  Practicing EQ. All really creative people have ideas which appear absurd at first!

Finding the Right Words is really important – not only for articulating and understanding the Emotions, but in actual teaching or relating to different persons. To me personally “ It is important to simply Get Along.” Therefore Empathy and Emotional Intelligence make a great deal of sense.. However, if they are simply skills to be used, as skills they can be misused or abused. But my friend and mentor Prof. Anabel Jensen’ s basic personality is full of Love and Caring for the World.  I trust her totally.  Indeed, if Six Seconds is to help the world it has to understand the different Emotions effected by different cultural languages, thoughts, and behaviors.

For most Chinese like myself, the following Words are extremely important :

理解      Lijie  –  Understanding

情感  Qingan  – Emotion

友    You  –  Friend & Friendship

智    Zhi  – Intelligence

慈 Ci – Compassion

爱 Ai  –  Love

信    Xin – Trust              

For years, I have been stressing the urgency to create an“Ideal International Cross-cultural Institute on Friendshipology. I think my remarkable friend’s Six Seconds Network seems to be an almost perfect model for it. I really wish her well – especially on this her 80th birthday.

On February 19, 2019, Prof. Anabel Jensen and Ms Ann McCormick gave a presentation to a delegation from Shanghai’s FuDan University School of Finance, visiting Silicon Valley. They both stressed Empathy & Compassion in Creative Innovation.


By Billy Lee – Nov. 2019

I truly believe that much of world’s chaos is caused by our lack of knowledge on how to build FRIENDSHIP or HARMONIOUS RELATIONSHIPS – “The Necessary Lubricant For All Human Activities”. For quite a few years, I have been urging : “ FRIENDSHIP should no longer be taken for granted “ and “ It’s time to focus on the creation of an Ideal International Cross-cultural Institute on Friendshipology !”

When questioned what are the most important ingredients necessary to start such a project, the obvious answer was “ A “- Generous monetary support and “ B “- Competent Individual(s) able to lead such a project.”

Early 2016, I started to test my idea with Prof. Ronald Egan, Director of Center for East Asian Studies at Stanford University. Dr. Egan’s instant reaction was that Friendshipology wasn’t quite the right word I should use. Indeed, another friend also told me that it sounded too much like Scientology. But since no one offered me a more suitable alternative, I decided that I should for now stick with Friendshipology as it has indeed provoked comments and deeper thoughts. Dr. Egan recommended that I should get in touch with Prof. Jean Oi who was recently appointed Director of Stanford Center at Peking University in Beijing. “ She may be interested in new cross-cultural projects” he said. He generously allowed me to mention his name and promptly provided me Prof. Oi’s email address.

Prof. Oi knew that I was an active board member of The 1990 Institute. She and her deputy, Jennifer Choo met with me several weeks later after her return from Beijing. While I was repeating non-stop the urgency of my observations, Oi abruptly but politely put her hand on my wrist and said : “ Mr. Lee, may I call you Billy. Since I have another meeting to attend in fifteen minutes, may I quickly summarize my response to your Dream. I like your passion and vision, but you need to start with a concrete project” I quickly held her hand and asked, “ Can we do a meaningful project via Stanford Center in Peking University ?”. She asked if I could help in fundraising. I promised 200% effort but no absolute guarantee of success. Prof. Oi promised to mail me a reply in two weeks. Deputy Director Jennifer Choo smiled. We all shook hands then parted.

Indeed, in two weeks, Prof. Oi replied favorably and provided examples of earlier joint projects with Peking University in varying disciplines and scopes. Oi was proud of the fact that her Stanford Center could count on full cooperation from each of the seven schools at Stanford. Deputy Jennifer Choo already figured out the next step. She offered to introduce me to Prof. Jeanne Tsai, Director of Culture and Emotion Lab at Stanford’s Psychology Department. Tsai seemed to be the perfect leader to coordinate a suitable “Concrete Project” via Stanford Center at Peking University that will eventually lead to the Birth of an Ideal Cross-cultural Institute on Friendshipology.

Weeks later, after several exploratory meetings, Prof. Jeanne Tsai with assistance from Mr. Yang Qu and Elizabeth Blevins presented a draft proposal titled : The Role of Emotional Values and Expression in the Development of Cross-Cultural Friendships in the US and China. This proposal aimed to (1) study the role of emotion in the development of cross-cultura friendships and (2) develop an intervention based on these findings. The 3-Year experiment will involve simultaneously 120 Chinese students studying at Stanford and 120 Western students at Peking U.. and functional MRI will be used to examine the neural mechanisms underlying the psychological ( affective, social, cognitive ) processes when individuals make quick or unconscious decisions. Total Budget for this 3-year Project was estimated to be US$ One million and 50 thousand.

I was truly impressed and delighted. My only additional suggestion was to add another $50 thousand to cover a global submit at either Stanford or Beijing near the end of the project to invite international experts to evaluate together and comment on this project and identify what needs to be further researched globally.

With the Project Proposal and Budget determined, Prof. Jean Oi invited two senior members from SUDO (Stanford University Development Office) to meet with us to discuss fund raising ideas. Mr. Yang Qu from Jeanne Tsai’s Lab first presented the Project and made himself available to answer any questions. When asked how I can help in fund raising, I presented a two-page list of friends whom I planned to contact – starting with a few “Potential Mega Donors“ followed by those who may donate collectively.

I was extremely disappointed when the gentleman from SUDO looked at me and said, “ I am so sorry. You have a good list but you are herewith advised not to approach your “Mega Donors”, since Stanford already knows these people and we have them targeted for much larger projects.” He turned around towards Prof. Jean Oi and asked about some other projects FSI ( I think Stanford University Freeman Spogli Institute is the larger umbrella over Stanford Center at Peking .) was pursuing.

After the meeting ended, Prof. Jean Oi very sincerely apologized to me and explained that Stanford Center could not at this time sponsor our project, however she will be more than happy to lend us the use of their Stanford Center facilities at Peking University if we can find an alternative sponsor.

Prof Jeanne Tsai was very resourceful and well connected internationally. She suggested that we work thru Stanford’s Humanities Department. In a very short time she arranged a possible joint venture with Peking U’s Psychology Department. Knowing that many potential contributors look for immediate relevancy or immediate benefits from the research project, she wisely modified her proposal to make it feel more relevant. In her new proposal, she added photos comparing the wide smile of Vice President Joe Biden with that of then China’s Vice President Xi Jinping – in analyzing values of Human Emotions in Cross-cultural Friendships.

Again, we met with another officer from SUDO- this time one managing Humanities Projects. This gentleman told us that our project was not considered “Large”, yet it was larger than the normal research projects on Humanities. He advised that we reorganize and split it into three separate phases and seek funding one phase at a time. He also examined my list of potential donors and asked who were those friends beside the potential “Mega donors”. He also informed us that Stanford Admissions policy will not allow us to approach parents whose kids are about to apply for college admissions. This rule pretty much wiped out the usefulness of my prepared donors list.

The Project fizzled near Oct. 2017, but my Dream, Conviction, & Hope remain. Had coffee last Tuesday with my dear friend, Marsha Vande Berg, a fellow Board Member at The 1990 Institute. She encouraged me to tell my story to more of my friends and keep the IDEA alive.