Mixing business and pleasure, personal and professional, money and friendship. Some say it's just not a good idea. But why? Why should we keep these things separate? I'm not so sure that we absolutely have to because doing business with and for people we know and have genuine relationships with can be a beautiful thing. Yet, when we do, things don't always turn out so beautifully, and there are numerous reasons why, but I'd like to look at this from one particular angle, an angle that I often call, "Can you help me out." I've spent a lot of time over the years observing, examining, and studying conflict, primarily because conflict exists in so many, if not all, areas of our lives. Its effects can be so rampant but, at the same time, so camouflaged, so subtle, and so easily ignored or dismissed. For the most part, many of us just don't like conflict, so we escape and avoid it at all costs, even if it means ignoring a "pink elephant" in the middle of a room screaming for attention.
So, what in the world is the conflict I'm talking about that has to do with mixing business and pleasure, personal and professional, and money and friendship that I like to call the "Can you help me out" syndrome? It's that conflict that occurs when we decide to start a business or start selling some product or service and regardless of the fact that we haven't seen or spoken to certain people in over ten, fifteen, or twenty-plus years or maybe we see them regularly but never engage them in much or any conversation, but now, suddenly, we decide to reach out to spark or re-spark a relationship because we now want them to help us out by buying whatever product or service we're selling. Look, if we're in business, or even if we haven't officially launched a business, but maybe we've written a book, recorded a CD, or some of us may have started selling jewelry, or health and wellness products, or maybe we've decided to start providing personal or professional care services of some sort, it goes without saying that we're going to want people to know what we're doing so that, hopefully, they'll keep us in mind in the event they or someone they know ever needs what we're providing. But if we haven't taken time to genuinely build, maintain, and value relationships with the people we're now reaching out to for support, they may, likely, get a bit turned off if we're now in touch only because we want something from them.
Back in the mid-'90s, my husband and I became involved with a business that, for purposes of simplicity, we'll describe as direct-sales. Of course, as with any business, but especially in this kind of business, in order to be successful, we had to get the word out to as many people as we could that we were now involved in this highly-popular business arrangement. We attended a lot of seminars, where we were trained on many aspects of how to do the business and how to do it well, and it all started with learning how to identify and initiate sales conversations with potential customers. As part of the training, we were instructed to make a list of everyone we knew--everyone! And to then call each one of those "everyones" and, essentially, ask them, "Hey, can you help me out?" Well, being true trainees, zealous and ambitious to succeed, we did our best to think of and reach out to every single person we knew so that we could initiate that much-needed conversation that started with, "Hey, can you help me out?" But what didn't matter? What didn't matter was how long it had been since we had last seen or spoken to a person. So what that we hadn't seen them since kindergarten. They still qualified! So what that we may not have had a direct way to get in touch with a person. If we had a telephone number of someone else who had that person's number, we'd just simply call the person whose number we had and ask for it (but, of course, not without first telling that person what we were into and seeing if they, too, might be interested). What didn't matter was that once we were on the phone with a person in that initial conversation, we really had nothing else to talk about nor were we interested in talking about anything else besides telling them about the business and then asking them, "Hey, can you help me out" even if we didn't ask in those words verbatim. The bottom line is that all we genuinely cared about was getting them to buy what we were selling. Never mind genuine relationship!
So, what are our takeaways? Here are a few:
1. If we genuinely care about people, we will naturally show interest in them even when doing so is not attached to benefiting us, our products, our services, or our businesses in some tangible or monetary way;
2. If we genuinely value relationships, we'll authentically build and maintain them as part of our natural DNA, which is something we can intentionally decide to be and do;
3. Exploitation can sound harsh, and there is a very fine line between sincerely letting people know what we're doing because we genuinely believe it may be of benefit to them versus exploiting people for our own selfish gain. So, even if that's not our intention, let's be mindful of the sheer appearance of what can be perceived as our being interested in others only for how we may benefit because regardless of whether we intend it or not, people may still feel as though they're being exploited, and nobody likes to feel that way;
4. Our genuine interest in and care for others doesn't mean we have to talk to them every day and send them birthday and Christmas gifts. If that's what we sincerely want to do, that's fine, but it doesn't have to mean that. It may just mean inquiring about how they and their families are doing every now and then or, at bare minimum, simply smiling and extending the common courtesy of saying "Hello" whenever we see them; and finally,
5. Let's keep in mind that support can be expressed in different ways, so people may want to support us in ways other than by buying what we're selling. The reality is that they may not need or be interested in the products or services we provide, but they would still like to show their support by showing up at events, sharing what we're doing with others in their network, by sharing with us words of encouragement, or even by praying for our success. So, support is not only about monetary or tangible gain.
As we know, a common response to conflict is to ignore or avoid dealing with it because conflict can cause awkwardness and a lot of discomfort. And the conflict that many often experience is that tension between wanting to be supportive of those of us they know who are in some form of business or those of us who sell some type of product or service, but, yet, they don't want to feel like their only value in our eyes is as a prospective customer or client nor do they want to feel compelled to buy what we're selling. So, the common solution that many resort to is that they start avoiding us because this tension can create a whole lot of awkwardness. If, however, we, as people in business or as people who sell products and services, focus on genuinely building, maintaining, and valuing the gifts and treasures of people and relationships, we'll lessen the tension and awkwardness that others feel because they'll know that we see and value them for who they really are and not merely for how they can be of benefit to us.
Like you, Katrina loves seeing people in healthy relationships (with themselves and others) that they genuinely enjoy and not just simply tolerate. This blog is dedicated to achieving that vision.