Category Archives: prosperity

Fair Exchange

What is “fair” and why does it matter?
Joan, who works as a professional organizer, was puzzled when she would offer to help someone out at no charge, then they wouldn’t even show for the scheduled appointment.

Harold, a psychic friend, offered free readings to prospective clients. He found that the ones who called for free never went on to become paying clients.

If you have ever staged a free event, you know that the actual attendance is usually smaller than the number of people who say they will come.

Health care workers who give free sessions may find that the recipients don’t actually get better. Counselors who proffer too much know the result of giving free advice. The person can seem to take your advice and then make the situation even worse because of how they use it! And then, of course, the bad advice you gave is at fault.

It is not unusual for people in the helping professions to feel dubious about asking for money. Whether it is a concern that the value will not be enough to warrant the fee, a sense of not deserving it, guilt for asking, or fear of disapproval, embarrassment, or rejection, it may seem easier to give service away for free or at a discount. Then, having the person not show up or not benefit from what you have given away is a letdown, reinforcing the perception that the service did not have value.

When we give our services away, a funny thing happens. Ramona DiDomenico, founder of the Institute for Transformational Facilitation in Lake Tahoe, first called my attention to this phenomenon. As Ramona pointed out, at a deep level, people actually prefer fair exchange over being out of balance.

Insisting that someone exchange something for your services is not a sign of greed or of a lack of generosity. It is a way to ensure that the value you intend to give is actually received. It is an opportunity for the receiver to recognize the value of investing in themselves.

In negotiation, we understand what it means to say that someone “has skin in the game.” If they have nothing at stake, they will actually bring the value down in their own minds to create a condition of fair exchange.

Business traditions can produce imbalance in the other direction. An old friend of mine had a bias about negotiating being a win-lose proposition. He had been raised in a traditional sales mindset. He always wanted to have the advantage in any deal that he did. His short term gains made others reluctant to negotiate with him over time.

The belief that we should always try to get the better end of the deal goes pretty deep in business cultures. Getting a good deal, and being able to step into the other person’s shoes to ensure that it really works for them too, results in a better deal and a better relationship for both.

In the age of internet marketing, there are many “free” offers out there. We need to realize that the exchange is for our contact information, our attention, and the possibility that we or those in our circle of influence will buy. Free events ask for your time and participation. I know some people who charge a fee for registrants only if they don’t show up.

Many currencies other than money can produce fair exchange. Sometimes we give just for the pleasure of helping. As long as it isn’t a discount to the service or the recipient, and we are not awaiting some form of payback, generosity can be its own reward. Sometimes our willingness to receive is a gift to someone who wants to give.

A good way to stay in balance and make sure that an exchange is fair is for each party to do a “gut check.” Does it really feel right? Or is someone one-up and someone one-down? I have sometimes paid more than I was asked when it felt out of balance. I would rather pay a little more than unconsciously devalue what I am receiving.

Take a look at where your relationships may be out of balance and see what you or the other person may be discounting. Keep your “accounts” current whenever possible. And remember that your investment of time and skill is just as valuable as anyone else’s.
(P.S. This is for humans. Do not try it with cats!)

Nothing Substitutes for Attention

Attention is the essence of who we are, the elixir of communicating with others.

There’s an old saying that “The master’s gaze fattens the flock.” Our full attention to what we are doing and the people around us fattens the flock of our dreams. Especially now, with distractions pulling at us constantly, we are challenged to focus our attention on our priorities.

Hurrying and overload both diminish the quality of attention we can pay to both people and details.

The wastefulness of hurrying was underscored last week as I exchanged email messages about a business transaction. Some of the details came through garbled. I asked for clarification. Rather than reading her own email to see what I was asking, the sender sent me an explanatory attachment which did not at all clear up the garble. It took us three more exchanges plus apologies and extra phone messages before we backed out of that minor mis-communication. Nothing substitutes for actually looking at the details.

Hurrying leads to such things as sending on an email message without changing the subject line, hitting ‘reply all’ to avoid choosing the relevant recipients, jumping to conclusions rather than listening. Then we have to hurry even more to undo all those extra steps.

Overload makes it hard to focus and keep track of what is important to us. It’s good to remind ourselves that giving attention to too many things means we are giving full attention to nothing. If we have been on the run too long, we can get locked into overdrive. Those around us never receive that long loving look or deep listening from someone they trust. We don’t tap into our deeper resources for ourselves either. Nothing substitutes for attention to people.

Sometimes we get stuck, whether in overdrive, or in obsessing about something in the past or future that we cannot influence in this moment.

Even when we think there is no time, it is helpful to step out of the rush, shake loose from demands, worries, and trivia, and take an inventory of where our attention is. Come into the present, feel your physical self, take a breath, clear your mind.

Discover again what matters, and put your full attention there. With attention, time is well spent.