Turning Points: What Are the Markers in a Relationship?

This past weekend, I was attending a conference and got to know one of the other attendees well. This man—we’ll call him Barak—had planned to share a room with another attendee—we’ll call him Chris—for the conference. When they set the plans, the two of them agreed to split the cost of the room.


Chris changed plans at the last minute and didn’t use the room the first night of the conference. When it came time to settle up, Chris refused to pay his half for the first night. Barak pointed out that they had made the original agreement weeks ago, and Chris’s decision to change plans at the last minute had left Barak in the lurch. After all, if Chris had told Barak earlier, Barak could have found someone else to share the room for the first night. Chris still refused, and Barak was stuck footing the entire bill for the first night.


For Barak, Chris’s decision created a complete breach of trust. Barak told me he wouldn’t trust Chris again and would never want to work with or do a deal with Chris in the future. I could understand why.


It wasn’t about the money. For the people attending this conference, $100 for a hotel room wasn’t going to put anyone in the poorhouse. Barak could afford to cover the part of the bill Chris wouldn’t pay, but he knew it wasn’t an exorbitant expense for Chris either. Chris’s decision made his priorities clear: it was more important to him to save a hundred bucks than to preserve his relationship with Barak. I wouldn’t have much interest in doing a deal with someone like that either.


So many of our relationships come down to moments like this, and so few people realize that. I can still hear my mom’s voice in my head: “There are certain things that reflect on you, Matt.”


We can’t know in advance which single moment in a relationship will be the turning point. That said, there are certain inflection points that tend to stand out:


  • Calling people back
  • Showing up on time
  • Doing what you say you’ll do
  • Reaching out at a time of crisis
  • Putting the relationship above a competing interest (ex. money)


Why is this relevant to business? Deals are only about the financials on paper. What’s happening off the page is all about the relationship you’re establishing—with clients, sellers, buyers, customers, your own team. The small interactions that tell someone what kind of person you are can make a deal a success or bring a team together. Or not.


What matters to you? What are the actions that become the turning points by which you judge or are judged by others?


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