Most of us treat at least some of the people in our lives as places where people are merely kept — like action figures, still safe in our packaging, acting out a predetermined script with other dolls. Conceived of as theoretical space that defines and shapes various kinds of interaction, people become merely venues where services are performed or provided for us, or people bring us something we want in exchange for our own services, This is true in personal interactions as well as business. Relationships, in other words, become providers of pleasure, gain, or pain. We become immune to the dangerous, scary, and wonderfully unlimited possibilities people can be outside of those scripted interactions.
The Relationship Box
Think of a relationship that’s important to you but feels limited in some way. It could be a romantic relationship, a family member, a business partner…
The relationship is fairly well defined, isn’t it? That’s what we do with important relationships. We give them an identity, and they include boundaries. In fact, it has become a catch phrase of popular wisdom that a good relationship is well defined in terms of the purpose and the kind of relationship it is, and in regard to the boundaries.
We tend to envision a relationship, in other words, as a box.
A box has walls, and space within it for expression, and we can describe the relationship often in just a few words. This is my client, this is my boyfriend, this is my priest, this is my mentor, this is my father, this is my boss…
And when someone within the relationship pushes against its walls, our tendency is to run from that, or become concerned, or stick up for the box. We defend the walls, massing our emotional and intellectual troops along those walls like soldiers protecting something that, admittedly, is really important, but it’s contained in something that takes on the importance, often in place of the people we’ve sequestered inside. In short, our relationships are often in a fixed state of seige that we treat as normal, because giving things definitions and classifications sounds right. But of course, people are not things.
The Box Has a Cost
What this costs us is the possibility for the relationship to grow, and indeed for us to grow along with the relationships that are important to us. The walls of the relational box we’ve created to protect the relationship and define its significance and importance and stifles our individual expression in response to each other and in the context of our relatedness. All definitions, whether a box, a circle, or some other shape, create limits – often limits to the very things we say we want.
When we feel closed off, restricted, in our living space – our house or apartment – we either live with it and accept a lower quality of living, or we move out of it, remembering it as a space that we loved at first, but that ultimately couldn’t keep pace with our need to grow or fully express the life we want, or else we take the bold step of knocking out a wall. Knocking a wall out relieves the pressure. It allows the relationship to grow beyond the box. We begin to find unity between the space and what it contains. It’s a little scary at first – are we altering the value of the relationship? Is the ceiling going to collapse? Will we be able to get back to the way it was, if we don’t like it?
Boxes Breed Boxes
Here’s an open secret: not only do you have boxes in which your clients exist, for you, but they have a box for you as well.
Do you want to expand what you’re offering your clients and client prospects?
Do you want them to see you in an expanded role?
Do you want the company-client relationship to grow beyond its current definition and boundaries?
Then you have walls to knock down, for them and for you.
Your relationship box limits your business growth and shrinks your image for prospective clients
Boxes Can Be Broken Down
You can give more importance to any of your relationships, and become more important in relationship to your clients, if you open up the definition, take off at least one of the walls, or knock down one of the boundaries. Not only will you have more access to self expression by doing the work you love and having client relationships you love, your clients will also come to love the ill-defined relationship they have with you and your company. Most importantly, you’ll give your clients access to boundless relationships with their own clients, which leads to unbounded growth, and that will make you boundlessly valuable.
Embrace openness. Tear down a wall. Resist fixed definition. Let your relationships expand beyond the box.
- Define your ethos – it’s not ‘caring’ or ‘customer service’. Be a stand for something your clients stand for.
- Ask good questions and don’t judge the answers – post open ended questions in your social media and go 1-2 rounds in the discussion, then let go and let them run it.
- Find value you can add beyond the sale, and produce it in an authentic way – offer free training, create high-value client-centered posts, etc.
I’m Daniel DiGriz, President of MadPipe, and I create an efficient marketing department for your company or organization. Contact me for an initial consultation to discover immediately actionable ways to develop out of the box relationships with your clients.Thanks for being committed to busting through the box in your relationships.