Healthy relationships better for business

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management, LLC
July 28, 2013

A friend of mine was recently in an attorney’s office to sign some papers. She apparently irritated the receptionist by insisting on reading the documents before signing them.

The secretary left the room, but not far enough so that my friend didn’t hear her say to a co-worker, “that woman’s a witch.”

Well, she didn’t say “witch,” but you get the idea.

Perhaps the receptionist was having a bad day. Maybe she was embarrassed about something. But even if you believe someone is a female dog, even a modicum of professional decorum and common sense require you to wait until the witch leaves before trashing her broom.

I’m guessing that secretary is close to her professional career ceiling.

She was unaware of the law of reciprocity. That is, humans feel a need to reciprocate anything that is done to or for them. It works in both the positive and negative. That is, the more we treat people with disrespect, the more likely we are to attract incivility into our own lives.

The phenomenon is both micro and macro. Treating someone with respect will increase the likelihood that the specific person reciprocates. It also increases the likelihood of attracting more gracious people and circumstances into your life.

As much as anything else, massive success in almost any endeavor is directly related to your ability to humbly create and maintain healthy relationships.

This is the reason that, all else being equal, we do business with the people we like. If you don’t like your State Farm agent, you get another one. State Farm agents all sell the same thing.

A State Farm agent only makes a living because of his ability to maintain healthy relationships with others.

Some people try to manipulate this law in order to manipulate outcomes. “Maintaining healthy relationships” is not the same thing as bribery or quid pro quo. Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich wasn’t humbly trying to serve anyone but himself when he solicited bribes for political appointments. He didn’t understand the law of attraction, which explains why we attract into our lives the things we most think about.

Blagojevich attracted a criminal karma into his life because he concentrated on crime. That’s why he waddled into prison.

When I graduated from college I wasn’t unaware of the law of reciprocity; I intentionally dismissed it. I naively believed that if I was the best money manager, I could sit in my office and the world would beat a path to my door. My uncle, a banker, and my wife, a telecom salesman, almost condescendingly laughed at me.

But they were right.

I am keenly aware that mutually beneficial relationships can be either healthy or unhealthy. The law of reciprocity doesn’t care if you are a saint or a sinner.

Competency is (or should be) the minimum requirement for entry into most business situations. After that, people tend to make decisions for subjective, not objective reasons.

The fortunate thing is that people get to decide themselves whether this works for or against them.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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