The Balance of Trade in Relationships

What happens when you send out ten friendly “vibes” to someone and only get two in return?  Or what about the opposite of that – how do you react when you are being inundated by “vibes” that you don’t want to return?  I don’t know about you, but both of these scenarios set off my ‘vibe” alarm system. 

When it comes to monitoring the quality of our relationships most people have a sense of uncomfortableness when the exchange of “vibes” is not reciprocal.  That happens because healthy relationships typically are marked by a give-and-take balance.  When things are out of balance, it sets off an internal warning system that is meant to prompt us to do something about it. 

Positive relationships require maintaining a healthy balance of trade.  A mutually beneficial interchange requires both buying and selling.  When someone is selling more than they are buying that is good for them but not for the other person, and vice versa.

You can relate to this principle when you think about how you feel when you have to deal with a high pressure salesman or phone solicitor.  Some relationships are just like that.  One person is doing all the talking, it’s all about them and they have no interest in what you feel or think.  It is a one way, trade deficit relationship.  They are treating you as if you have nothing of value to contribute to the conversation. 

Here are three valuable tips to help us maintain a balance of trade in our relationships.

1.  Be quick to listen, slow to speak.  (James 1:19)  Relationship are built and nurtured through mutual respect and care.  Nothing communicates that more effectively than attentive listening.  When two people are more concerned in buying (listening) from one another rather than selling (speaking), the relationship thrives. 

Over the years I have had the honor of meeting a number of nationally known ministers.  The ones I remember and hold in deepest affection are those who caught me off guard by their disdain for being the expert; but instead were genuinely interested in learning something from me.  I did not feel like I had more than a thimble full of value to give to them but they affirmed it nonetheless. 

2. Show yourself friendly.  (Proverbs 25:17)  If we are going to have friends the Bible makes it clear that we have to be friendly.  Friendliness produces friendship reciprocity.  Have you noticed that when a stranger smiles at you, that you are inclined to smile back?  It is a very affirming mutual exchange of trade vibes that will brighten any day. 

The principle of sowing and reaping is at work here.  If we desire to reap friendship from people we need to sow friendliness.  “What ever a man sows that also will he reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

3.  Do not set foot in your neighbor’s house too often. Otherwise, he will see too much of you and hate you.  (Proverbs 25:17)   This is a wise caution when it comes to maintaining a trade balance in friendships.  Show some restraint.  Don’t get carried away with either too much buying or too much selling.  You might wear out your welcome.

Every healthy relationship, even in marriage, creates breathing room and space for time apart.  In order to do this requires a keen sense of trade balance.  It is important to be able to pick up on when your engagement is becoming intrusive or overbearing and then back off.  I have seen friendships destroyed when one person was spooked by the others’ controlling obsession with spending time together. 

What have you learned about the trade balance in relationships?

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3 thoughts on “The Balance of Trade in Relationships”

  1. This is a very timely post. I got to learn a great deal of lessons just this week. The things that I learned: #1 – Don’t assume your perception of what the other person is thinking is accurate (it sounds simple and yet we do this all the time without even realizing it). I cannot stress enough how important this is. #2 – ASK alot of questions of the other person and stop and LISTEN. Don’t be thinking about what your response is going to be. Just listen and then wait (silence is okay) and then do not respond until you have had a time to process what you just heard. We are so trained in our language and behaviors that when a person is talking we are “half listening” and at the same time thinking in our mind what we are going to say next. #3 – Relationships take time and commitment. You have to be willing to give the time to help any good relationship to be successful #4 – Think of the relationships that you have that are successful and ask yourself why it is. This usually leads to some truths on what you can do differently. To be a good friend, you have to “genuinely” show the other person that you care and to do this means that you are more concerned about hearing what is going on in their life than you do about sharing what is going on with yours. And again……DO NOT assume you know what is going on with the other person and make false assumptions. Great post Pastor Tom. Sometimes they are hard to hear, such “God” reminders of how we are to live. Who ever said being a Christian is easy.

  2. Diane – you make some very good points. As you point out assumptions invariably get us in trouble. Proverbs 18:13 puts it very bluntly: “Whoever gives an answer before he listens is stupid and shameful.” Thanks for you insights!

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