Cultivating reciprocity, not transaction in relationships
PLEASE DO NOT ASK TO PICK MY BRAIN! I make every effort to be available to my past, present and future students whenever they want to talk about their ideas and options. And I keep my door open to friends of friends who have been referred to me who are seeking advice about entrepreneurship and life; and I have a standing offer to my colleagues that they should feel welcome to send their offspring to me for a chat and a pot of tea whenever they are interested or ready.
I always offer candid and direct answers to my visitors’ questions, yet frustratingly, I often respond to questions with another perplexing question. I try to locate the place of unraveling in a dilemma or choice and then frame a challenging question that will begin to unwind and reveal the connected, deeper issues associated with finding one’s way to commitment. (This is one tool in Ganesha’s arsenal of obstacle removal and what Zen masters call a koan.)
The only time, I routinely refuse a request for a meeting is when someone asks if they can “pick my brain. (A rather fallow request.)
Advice from sage: Whenever you approach a future mentor, teacher or friend with a request for advice, see it as just one part of a long-term conversation, not as a one-way, one-time extraction of knowledge or insight. Make an effort to follow up on these interactions; keep in touch when you don’t have a request. Work to establish a relationship from the start that is based on reciprocity. Ask “is there anything I can do for you to be helpful?” even if you do not believe you have anything special to contribute. (You never know.) The gesture itself is the kind of action that generates sustaining energy, possibility and good will. If you found the interaction to be deep and meaningful, imagine how it might grow if watered and nurtured over time.
*Mary Oliver’s stunning wake-up poem, The Summer Day, can be found here.