The relationship edge: Are you on it, in it, or over it?
Beginning a relationship is easy, whether it’s a social relationship or a business relationship. Exploration is predominantly on the surface. Nothing too revealing. In the beginning, all is well. Friendships blossom. Feelings emerge. And life is good.
It’s like fast dancing at a bar. You kind of get to know the other person without getting too close. You watch them move, see their rhythm, exchange smiles, scream a word or two, and at the end of the song, thank them for their time. If you like them and believe you have some things in common, you may dance with them again.
If you feel good about the relationship and a bit of trust emerges, you may permit a transaction to take place —a dinner, a meeting, a sale.
As the relationship matures, truths begin to reveal themselves, causing decisions to be made about the future of the relationship, including its length.
And then one day you begin to see things you’ve never noticed before because life and business life take over and reality sets in based on daily transactions and interactions, coupled with patience, emotions, feelings and responses.
I’ll refer to these elements as edges. You have edges or levels past which you will not go: tolerance levels, social levels, service levels, philosophical levels and business levels. If someone tries to go past your edge — your tolerance level — you rebuff or deny them. Maybe even dismiss them.
Your compatibility with the other person’s edges, combined with your acceptance of those edges, will determine whether the relationship grows or dies.
For example, I’m not a smoker, nor am I much of a drinker. Smoking drinkers are past my edges, and I don’t want to be around them much. I didn’t say ever. I just said much. I may have a business relationship with a smoking drinker, but I’d never have a social relationship.
There are ethical edges, both personal and business. If someone goes past your ethical edges, you have a reaction, often acute, that says “danger.” It can be as “innocent” as cheating on a golf score, or as serious as cheating on taxes or not paying the bills. It can be an erroneous invoice or an unmet crucial delivery date, but whatever it is, it’s often a relationship breaker.
And then there are the emotional edges: how someone reacts when something goes wrong, or responds to a point of argument, and how you feel about or judge their reactions. Are they whiny? Are they quick tempered? Are they abrasive? Are they abusive? Are they somewhat of a wildcard, flying off the handle? Or worse, do they show characteristics you either don’t like or fear? Hostility, vindictiveness, anger, insult — even the threat of physical violence?
In other words, are they inside (safe) or outside (unsafe) your emotional edge?
Edges have a counterpoint: tolerance. You can tolerate almost anything for a short space of time. But each time someone goes over your edge, you become less tolerant, either verbally or silently.
Personally, I believe “past the edge” silent thoughts are more dangerous and more powerful. They’re dangerous because, left unsaid, they allow the present situation to continue. They’re more powerful because they begin to deepen and build emotion. And like any latent power, eventually it explodes.
What are your edges? Where do you draw the line? What are you willing to accept in others in order to continue a relationship?
Many spousal relationships become petty before they end. Leaving the cap off the toothpaste, dirty laundry lying around, dirty dishes in the sink — dumb things that erode the relationship because, after a hundred abrasive times, it’s finally over someone else’s edge.
Of course, there are worse edges in personal relationships. For the purposes of this writing, I’d rather not get into them. If you’ve forgotten what they are, any local news program will remind you.
I’m challenging you to widen your field of acceptable edges. Extend your patience. Figure out how you can help, rather than complain, nag, bicker, nitpick or whine. Figure out how you can compromise just a bit more. Figure out how you can be a bit more understanding and empathetic for the other guy’s position or situation. And figure out how you can be more of a resource than a resister. More of a yes than a no.
Your personal edges determine your business and career edges. And your happiness.
If you would like to know the areas where edges, both yours and others, are likely to reveal themselves, go to gitomer.com, register if you’re a first-time user, and enter EDGES in the GitBit box. Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of 13 books. His real-world ideas are also available as online courses at gitomerlearningacademy.com. For information about training and seminars, visit gitomer.com or email Jeffrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.