"I recently attended a college basketball game and was struck by three things about the cheerleaders. The first thing is that cheerleaders always smile. This occurred to me midway though the second half when the home team was down by about forty points. When they finished their cheer, every one of them had an ear-to-ear grin. It was as if they were saying, 'Just wait till after this time-out. We'll score fifty points in a row and win!' Friends who take the voice of cheerleaders are like that. They smile no matter what is going wrong. They have absolutely no doubt about us. Even when we think the situation is hopeless.

"Another thing I have noticed about the cheerleaders is that they do tricks. They do somersaults and backflips, make human pyramids, and perform marvelous balancing acts. Cheerleader friends are like that. They are willing to stand on their heads if necessary to get us to pay attention to what they're saying. They are persistent and dedicated to making us see ourselves through their eyes.

"When cheerleaders come out on the floor they often get the crowd to repeat what they're saying. 'Gimme a W . . .Gimme an I . . .Gimme a N . . .!' they shout. Sometimes friends resort to the same strategy: 'You know you're a good person, don't you? You know how dedicated you are, don't you?' like the crowd at a game, we respond to each question as instructed. And it really makes a difference."