Mensch or Mooch?

iStock_000003873618XSmallmensch |men ch |
noun ( pl. menschen |ˈmen ch ən|or mensches) informal
a person of integrity and honor.
ORIGIN 1930s: Yiddish mensh, from German Mensch, literally ‘person.’


“A friend will help you move. A true friend will help you move a body.”

Some friends are real friends, tried and true. If you need something, they’re right there for you, no questions asked. If you do something for them, they thank you and acknowledge the effort. While the best friendships don’t involve scorekeeping, there remains a certain quid pro quo in the relationship. Everybody gives and everybody receives. These are the relationships on which you should build your life.

(For additional help in choosing friends, you can refer to my handy infographic.)

Some friends are well-intentioned, but hopelessly disorganized and unreliable. You enjoy having them around and they make you happy, but don’t ask them to take you to the airport or pick your kids up from school. Whatever you do, don’t go into business with them. These friends are fine to have. They add color and spice to your life. Think of them like the décor in a home – fun to be around but not part of the foundation.

Then there are the mooches. These are the vampires of the modern world. They suck your time, talents, energy, and goodwill, leaving you empty and frustrated while they’re moving on to their next victim. They see you a resource to be consumed and nothing more.

“Can you build this web site for my new project? It’ll look good on your résumé. ”

“Can you design posters, brochures, and souvenir artwork for my event?”

“We think you’d be perfect to chair this committee / host this event / volunteer this work.”

Worse yet, they may not even realize that they are vampires. Some people have lived their entire lives under the impression that this is just the way the world works. Ask for what you want, receive it, and then move on. No harm, no foul.

But, the world doesn’t work that way. Rather, I should say that that the world shouldn’t work that way.

  • Share your talents freely, but only on things you’re passionate about. If you don’t love it, then get paid for it. If you don’t love it and don’t get paid for it, then don’t do it.
  • Say thank you when someone does something for you. I repeat: say THANK YOU. If they design the cover of your book, then they dang well better get a free signed copy. Be generous when you say thanks.
  • If someone says “I’ll do it for free. Just buy me lunch sometime,” that means they like you and are willing to develop a friendship with you. They see their efforts as an investment in a relationship and not just work. If that’s what they want in exchange for their time and talent then buy them lunch, dammit. Don’t assume it lets you off the hook for compensating them. If they ask for lunch and you don’t want to spend the time, give them a gift card instead.
  • It’s OK to ask someone to collaborate with you on a project. In fact, it might be the start of something very cool. Be prepared to collaborate and not just consume.
  • Be open when someone asks you to collaborate on a project. In fact, it might be the start of something very cool. Even if you can’t do it, be appreciative of the offer and don’t be a jerk about it.

Do you have mensches or mooches for friends?

Do they collaborate or consume?

Do they say thank you?


Do you?




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *