Interpersonal Flexibility

If you are in business, you have probably been burned too many times to count. We have all learned from one bad experience to another that it is critical to protect ourselves. However, there is always a time and a place for flexibility. Bending to the conditions that catch you off guard is not the same as being pushed around. Of course you will discern which conditions you should adapt to in order to sustain your business, while others will expose themselves as being dangerous. Think of flexibility as proverbially picking and choosing your battles.

For instance, my contract agreement includes a cancellation clause that states if a call is missed or a person is egregiously late, the time still counts as a session. When a longtime client of mine missed our scheduled call, I knew something was up. Days later, I heard from her that she had food poisoning. This client and I had a long relationship with precedence of her being on time, so of course I didn’t count the session.

Anyone who has a consulting business would agree this is necessary verbiage, as time is money, and we can’t afford to be giving away blocks of time. So although we must be protective of our time, we also must consider these questions: At what cost? Will it burn the bridge? Will an act of penalization ruin the relationship?

Flexibility can be administered on a case-by-case basis, making it flexible in and of itself. It doesn’t have to be literally built into the business bylaw. You have the discretion, based on the relationship, to find the loophole if that’s what you prefer. In this way, flexibility isn’t a business model, it’s a mind- set. Yes, we all have policies, but I decided a long time ago to hold my clients to the spirit of the law instead of the letter of it. My client was completely grateful, by the way, and I know that my flexibility also told her that I was quite reasonable to work with, and that quality is never hurtful to a relationship.

When we are flexible with others—whether it is with staff, vendors, or clients—we send several messages of kindness at once. Through our flexible actions we show we are patient, humble, and aware that we are susceptible to the same kinds of interruptions. We tell others we are compassionate and em- pathetic of the situation. Our flexible reaction to a conun- drum is the cumulative effect of all these kindness characteristics put together.