We hear the word love throughout modern society. We are told to love our customers and that as customers we are loved. We are told to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are told that there is no greater gift than love. We even have a special holiday, Valentine’s Day, dedicated to the notion of love.
Love has been described a basic building block of resilience, the foundation of the family, and in the goal of marriage. But does love have a place in business?
Father Dan Schulte, a Catholic Priest and Philosopher, has defined love as “Love is the unifying thoughts between two people who have cared for and have said ‘yes’ to each other total being. It implies mutual respect, freedom and trust, and seeks the happiness of fulfillment of each other as a common goal.”
Father Robert Mitchell has stated that love is an act of choice while “life” is an uncontrollable emotional response to our experience of another individual. Father Mitchell states that while respect is a pre-requisite of love, life is not. Father Mitchell does posit that respect is the ideal foundation for a love relationship and that from this respect “life” would ideally spring forth to form the framework of the love choice however, life is not the pre-requisite to the act of choice to love.
In the business world the admonishment to “love our customers” has been criticized as minimizing the meaning and importance of love. As this admonishment is a pride in most businesses that criticism is quite true. Father Schulte in his definition points out that love is a unifying response, it binds those in the relationship together trading a new individual, the love relationship itself. In his definition those in the love relationship choose to “care for and face ‘yes’ to each other’s total being.” Here Father Schulte and Father Mitchell agree completely, love does not require that you “like” the other individual only that you choose to love. How many of our customers do we have the immediate emotional response of dislike? Father Mitchell and Father Schulte prove here that we can embrace that “dislike” and still choose to love that customer.
But how can I love somebody whom I dislike? Father Schulte’s definition answers this question as well by including that love implies mutual respect. Just as Father Mitchell stated that respect is the foundation for love, Father Schule states it is an absolute pre-requisite. Even if we dislike our customers we can still find in ourselves respect for them and perhaps even acceptance of them as they are and through these make the choice to love them.
Finally Father Schulte points out that a love relationship requires that we seek the “happiness and fulfillment of each other as a common goal.” Is this not the goal of every business? Few of us work to be unhappy despite the fact that for many this is the end result. Instead we speak to gain fulfillment and happiness through the work we do. Father Schulte points out that it is not the work that creates the fulfillment and happiness but the relationships that we garner from that work. Interestingly, when the relationships from our work provide fulfillment and happiness we need the last pre-requisite to love our customers.
But what if our customer refuses to enter into this love relationship? What if our customer does not care for us, is not accepting of us and does not respect us, does not trust us or does not seek our happiness or fulfillment as their goal? Increasingly in American society we find an almost schizophrenic response to the concept of customers and businesses and business people entering into a love relationship.
When we fill the role of customer we are often impatient, untrusting, unaccepting, unloving. Yet when we are in our own business and work environment we strive to respect, accept and even love those whom we serve. Father Mitchell points out that because love is choice we can choose to offer love even when the requirements of a true love relationship are not there. For Father Mitchell this is a form of self reliance and self respect. Father Mitchell states that it is the ultimate form of self love to not allow another person to denigrate decisions and the ideal that we have set for ourselves. This means that even though we may not like our customers, even though our customer may disrespect us we can choose to offer them love. This is not to say that we should allow ourselves to be abused. Nor should we allow ourselves to be exploited. There is a vast difference between offering love and becoming a victim of our own love choice. In offering love we are respecting our own choice to enter in to a love relationship however, that relationship becomes exploitive when it is not a unified response, when we are not cared for nor accepted. We may offer love despite apparent disrespect but if disrespect, distrust and a failure to value our happiness and fulfillment by what we receive in return for our love choice then it is not love but masochist to remain in the relationship.
For many years it was the professional responsibility of physicians to constantly evaluate their relationship with their patient. The doctor/patient relationship was seen as the ultimate love relationship. In that relationship the physician along with the patient sought health and happiness, however when evaluating that relationship if the physician found that the relationship itself was not healthy either for the doctor or the patient that physician was both morally and ethically bound to end that doctor/patient relationship and assist the patient in finding a new physician.
Unfortunately as healthcare became more a business and less a relationship physicians began to abandon this professional responsibility remaining in relationships where they were neither respected nor trusted and where they failed to respect or trust their patient. Over time the professional decisions to find the patient a more supportive relationship became replaced with the legal decision to “severe the doctor/patient relationship”. It is interesting to note that about the same time the number of malpractice lawsuits in the United States began an exponential rise.
In any choice to enter into a love relationship there must be the inherent choice to end that relationship if it fails to meet the basic requirements of love. This is a prospect that is frightening too many businesses however, if a business is to be financially resilient, if it is to be able to extend the same love relationship to its employees as it frequently extends to its customers than it must obey the moral imperative to love its customers enough to seek for them the best business relationship possible even if it is with another business. How often had a business garnered our undying loyalty by referring us elsewhere for service that they can not truly meet?
The choice to love is the basic building block not only of friendships, marriages and resilience, it is the basic building block of business.