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FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM OCTOBER 2007
Beginning a relationship is easy.
Exploration is predominantly on the surface. Nothing too deep. Nothing too wide. 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 touching them. Watch them move, see their rhythm, exchange smiles, scream a word or two. And at the end of the song, thank the person for their time.
You get to know them, and decide if you want to dance again. If you like them, and believe you have some things in common, you may dance again. And again.
If you feel good about the relationship, and a bit of trust emerges, you may permit a transaction to take place. A meeting, a dinner, a sale, or in a social setting, even a kiss.
As the relationship matures facts and truths begin to reveal themselves — causing decisions to be made about the future of the relationship, including things like its length.
And one day you begin to see things you’ve never seen before, because life takes over and reality sets in based on daily transactions and interactions, coupled with patience, emotion, feelings, and responses.
I’ll refer to them as edges. You have edges or levels, past which you will not go. Tolerance levels, social levels, philosophical levels, and business levels. If someone tries to go past your edge, your tolerance level, you, in some manner, rebuff or deny them. Maybe even dismiss them.
Your compatibility for and with the other person’s edges, combined with your acceptance of the other person’s edges, will determine how the relationships grows or dies.
For example, I’m not a smoker. Nor am I much of a drinker. If I’m around a drinking smoker, it’s 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 with him or her.
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 your golf score, or as serious as cheating on your taxes or not paying your bills, but whatever it is, it’s a relationship breaker.
And then there are the emotional edges. How someone reacts when something goes wrong, or how someone responds to a point of argument. And how you feel about or judge their reaction. 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, showing characteristics that you either don’t like, or fear? A temper. A hostility. A vindictiveness. 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 and less tolerant, either verbally or silent.
Personally, I believe that “past the edge” silent thoughts are more dangerous and more powerful. They’re dangerous because they’re left unsaid and allow the present situation to continue. 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 wiling 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. The gas tank on empty. Dumb little things that erode love because after a hundred abrasive times, it’s 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. And if you’ve forgotten what they are — any local news program will remind you of them nightly.
Rather, I’m challenging you to widen your field of acceptable edges. Extend your patience. Figure out how you can help first rather than complain, nag, bicker, nitpick, or whine. Figure out how you can compromise just a bit more. 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.
Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Little Red Book of Selling and The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on sales and customer service at www.trainone.com. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to salesman@gitomer.com.


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