Transactional Relationships



You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours.

Frankly, I’m not a fan of this type of relationship. You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours feels somewhat conditional. The statement implies that I will only help you if you help me.

Perhaps a more mutually beneficial relationship is Give/Take.   I think Give/Take may more accurately describe a relationship where both parties benefit but perhaps in different ways and/or at different times.   Imbalance may occur over short time periods but balance tends to occur over the long run.

These reciprocal relationships differ from the unidirectional relationship which may be either You help me/you help me some more or I help you/I help you some more. These relationships are not likely to last or may not even get started, though more limited versions of unidirectional relationships are inevitable and in many cases, desirable.

I think I’m fairly sensitive to relationship imbalance. The exception is when I enter a relationship with a subconscious expectation that the relationship is supposed to be imbalanced. For example, certain relationships at work (employer/employee) or home (parent/child) are by imbalanced by nature. Right?

I’m not so sure.

Certainly, an infant or toddler will be on the Take side of the equation, but as that child grows, they should be more able to Give. If they don’t, they become self-centered and demanding adults. Some parents of my generation have operated on the assumption that we’re supposed to be selfless parents. I completely disagree with that philosophy.  IMHO, children should become increasingly participatory in both family responsibilities and privileges, or forever stay physically, financially and emotionally dependent. Instead of empowering our kids, we actually cripple their ability to be independent and equals in the long run.

I also argue that work relationships should be Give/Take. I Give in exchange for Pay. But Pay is not enough; I need respect, affirmation, fairness, a safe environment, and an opportunity to grow and contribute.   I don’t want a unidirectional relationship with my boss, my colleagues or students. Yes, I’m there to teach, but the students’ should offer their respectful engagement and a reasonable effort in return. Yes, I’m there to mentor, but a good mentoring relationship is based on mutual respect, shared interests, trust and a mutual desire to see and help the other succeed.  I think a good employer/employee relationship has the same features. In other words, even if a student or employee has less authority, a lasting relationship is always reciprocal. After all, we form relationships with people, not just a Means To An End.

Are you taking a unidirectional relationship for granted? Change it. Improve it. Save it.