Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On building relationships

I was recently home visiting my parents in upstate New York. One night while sitting around chatting we somehow got on the topic of walking. I said something about how much I loved walking on the roads in their area not only because it was beautiful, but because drivers would actually move over in order to give you some room.

Then my dad started talking about walking to school in the mornings, which he’ll often do when the weather is nice. School is about 2 ½ miles from our house, if memory serves, and there are no sidewalks. At best there is a narrow shoulder.

He said that walking at that hour of the morning you see the same drivers every day. The first time drivers go past him, they’ll generally move slightly to the left—enough to avoid hitting him, but not giving a lot of room; my dad will then give a small wave of acknowledgment and thanks in return. The next day, the same driver—having received that wave of acknowledgment the day before—will move over a bit more.

And, in response, they get a bigger wave.

And so it continues—the drivers move farther and farther to the left, and getting bigger and bigger waves in return.

Eventually, the drivers are practically risking head-on collision ‘cause they know they’re getting that big wave.

The takeaway here is not that if we don’t spend time building relationships that we’re going to end up stranded in a ditch with a broken ankle.

It’s that small gestures have a pay-off. And that those small gestures, over time, can build something much bigger.

You don’t have to start with the giant wave/risk of head-on collision. That’s a lot to ask of either party at the beginning. But those first small gestures aren’t the end of it either—they’re the beginning. Each party in the relationship makes those small gestures at the beginning—and needs to see a return on their investment before willing to risk something more.

And that, over time, is how relationships of all kinds are built.

1 comment:

  1. *waves*

    (I'm not sure if I'm trying to build toward something bigger, or trying to get you to give me a wider berth. I guess we'll just have to figure it out as we go.)