ON THE NATURE OF RELATIONSHIPS
Your “friends” should never tell you who you can associate with
Human relationships are forever fascinating. I’ve long been interested in the interplay between two partners, and what can be called the “chemistry” between them. What, for example, really brings two people together? Is it common interests, or different interests? What makes the relationship tick, and what tears it apart?
I have concluded that each human relationship is very much like a chemistry experiment, whereby different chemical-soup mixtures combine or don’t combine with any of the other chemical-soup mixtures that we call the dynamic human. One day I hope to publish a book on relationships and perhaps I’ll be bold enough to make some meaningful comments and suggestions.
For today, I want to explore one issue that I have experienced all my life in various relationships, though it tends to pop up the most in business relationships.
Someone will say, “If you do business with that person, you cannot do business with me!” I have had it said to me, and my knee jerk reaction is nearly always, “OK, then I will not do business with you. I do business with whom I choose, and if you have a problem with X, that is your problem alone.”
I can recall as a child in grammar school when one of the popular boys told me the same thing. “You cannot be my friend if you are going to pal around with so-and-so.” Really? I was usually too frightened as a child to openly challenge such a statement, and I would maintain my friendship with the outcast anyway. I learned – in time - that the bossy boy was very insecure and he wasn’t really my friend anyway, not in the ways that mattered.
And as I continued to “pal around” with the new kid in school, who I was told to not associate with, I found someone who was different, unique, and who became a lifelong friend. It is perhaps because I often felt like an outcast myself growing up that I have found myself attracted to the so-called oddballs and misfits of the world, most of whom are far more fascinating and interesting than the so-called normal people.
More recently, where I conduct a regular outdoor public event, some of the local residents would hang out at my booth where I conducted the administrative aspects of the event. My assistant told me privately that I should not allow one particular person to stay around my booth. The young man in question lived locally, and was known to be affiliated with a notorious L.A. gang. Some people felt intimidated by this man’s presence.
However, it has never been my policy to expel or repel anyone based on such things; as long as his behaviour in my presence was appropriate, I had no reason to repel him. I gradually got to know this man. He needed income, and so little by little I put him to work doing various small tasks at the weekly outdoor event, much to the dismay of my assistant. Plus, this was a public space, not private property, so I did my best to make this a good situation for everyone. Through my comments and suggestions, this young man gradually was able to refine his communication skills when talking with my customers, and even began to dress a little better when he came to our market. From my perspective, I may have been one of the few people who interacted with him in a positive way, even encouraging him to get more work, and where to find it. I never looked down my nose at him, so to speak.
To my surprise, there were a few times when other individuals harshly criticized me or our market, and this young man strongly and eloquently defended me. I was shocked because I didn’t expect it, and it was not necessary, and yet, nothing more needed to be said or done. I chose to view it as “what goes around, comes around,” as this young man felt so much a part of our market that he would stand up to defend us.
This is just one small example where something positive flowed from a situation that others viewed as negative.
Yes, like everyone, I like to surround myself with good friends. And yet, I have never forgotten the insightful words of Moshe Dayan, who said “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”