Every day, with every relationship, you must choose… you can choose to actively move closer, passively let it sit, or actively push it away.
Two of those choices will lead to that relationship fading away, maybe slowly, maybe quickly, but it will eventually be a thing of the past. Only one choice keeps your relationship together, moving forward.
This is true in any relationship, whether it’s business, family, friends, and especially your significant other. The more you interact with someone in a positive, active way, the closer and stronger your relationship with that person will become… that’s why businesses with great customer service also tend to have highly loyal customers, but if that service drops off, so does the loyalty. The couples with the strongest relationships are also usually the ones who find things to do together that they both enjoy.
Here’s how each of the choices affect your relationships:
Love (Actively Moving Closer)
The very act of choosing to do something actively with the intention of strengthening your relationship opens you up more to the other person, forming new lines of connection that provide more ways to become closer, more of a foundation to build yet more lines upon.
There is an extremely important phrase in that last sentence that many people will pass right over… with the intention of strengthening your relationship. If you do something, even something that seems right, for any other reason, it will be at best passively letting it sit, and can even be actively pushing it away. Other reasons include everything from feeling obligated to pity to trying to do the specifics of a guide to “getting closer” without understanding the meaning behind the words and actions.
Choosing love can be easy or hard, but it has to be your choice to truly work, long term. The choices that you make have to have meaning to you… you have to desire to build the relationship, not just follow a set of instructions.
Marriage counseling, for example, can fit into any of the three categories… if you are both choosing to do it as a way to strengthen your relationship, it is choosing love, and it willstrengthen that relationship. If one of you is doing it out of obligation, or to avoid fights, it is passive, choosing apathy, and does nothing. If one of you thinks that it is a waste of time (or money), it will actively drive you apart.
Customer service is very similar… if your customer service person actively likes helping people, and identifies with the customer, it will strengthen that relationship. If they are following a script, like most first level call center employees, it is at best neutral, and does nothing to strengthen the relationship. If the person resents the job, even if they do the same thing as the first person who loves the job, they are likely to have a negative effect on the relationship between the business and that customer.
The choice of love, of actively strengthening the relationship, brings you closer.
As the Rush song says, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” That’s as true in relationships as anything else.
The thing that most people don’t consciously consider, at least not very often, is that all relationships naturally grow apart over time. That’s because you get close as the people that you are at one point in your lives, but as your lives go on, you change. You become different people, and without actively forming new bonds, those people are less and less connected… you simply shed some of the pieces of you where the bonds between you are anchored.
This is true in personal relationships from marriage to friendship, and in business. How strong is your connection to someone you last saw five years ago, compared to someone you saw five days ago? Which one are you most likely to think of? Or for business, how much easier is it to sell something new to a customer you are actively involved with (in a positive way, of course) than someone you last spoke to three years ago?
The choice of apathy, or passively not doing anything, leads to weakening relationships over time.
Rejection (Actively Pushing Away)
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to actively push someone away without consciously deciding to do so.
You can do this when you are upset, hurting, or overwhelmed by things that have absolutely nothing to do with the other person in the relationship… you just act defensively, keeping them outside the “safety zone”. You push them just far enough away to keep them from hurting you, which happens to be far enough away to start the whole relationship moving down the path to being history.
It can be from things like being resentful of where you are or what you feel like you are being forced to do. It can come from things not going right at home (for business) or at work (for personal relationships). It can come from grief when someone close to you dies, or from simply feeling overwhelmed at all of the things that you feel you need to do (feeling like you are so far from where you “should” be, looking at the end point rather than the path to get there).
Rejection, in fact, is more often unconscious, or subconscious, than intentional. You are far more likely to “take it out” on someone than you are to choose to push that person away from you.
The choice of rejection leads to relationships weakening quickly… so quickly it’s hard to believe when you look back.
Every day, in every relationship, you make a choice… did you choose love today? What will you choose tomorrow?