Play Fair (It’s Not What You Think!)

I’ve been a career marketer, so I’ve enjoyed more than my fair share of sales training meetings. For some years, I was the single-mom salesperson in the back trying to maintain a soul in an industry that celebrates self-interest.


I’ll never forget this one chick, though, at a sales training in Chicago a couple of years back. She was in an industry where you didn’t get paid anything at all unless you made the sale. Basically, she worked for free on most of her deals because part of the sale was educating and advising her client, whether or not she actually made the sale. And, it was a very competitive industry.


Most sales people in this industry made the mistake of letting clients walk all over them because the money didn’t come until the end, if at all.


Not this chick, though. If her clients weren’t returning her calls or following up on their part of their agreements, she would call them and leave them this message,




Hello, Mr. Customer. This is Susie Amazing-Boundaries from x sales company. I’ve left several messages for you and haven’t heard back. Because I haven’t been able to reach you, I’m going to stop working on your job until you get back to me. You see, MY LEVEL OF COMMITMENT CANNOT EXCEED YOURS. Thank you for the opportunity.


Oh, my goodness, did my jaw drop. I couldn’t imagine the stones it took to say that. But that girl sold a TON of stuff because she was able to quickly ascertain which clients were serious and fair and which clients were just using her, her company, and her time as a bargaining chip to get a better deal elsewhere.




I thought about that and thought about that and then thought about that some more. And then I thought about myself and my own experience with people.


You see, for many, many years, I had just the opposite approach to relationships. I gave and gave and gave and gave because I was afraid if I didn’t I would be left in the cold by the other person. But guess what, sweet cheeks? It turns out that if you are giving too much of yourself in exchange for not being hurt by the other person, you mostly attract people who are comfortable taking more than they give and hurting others. And those people are EVERYWHERE, I promise you.


By contrast, when you set healthy boundaries, you attract people/clients/boyfriends/friends/business associates/bosses who appreciate fair play because that is how they live as well.


You attract what you allow.




And so I started testing her model against the relationships in my life.


All of them.


And I began to winnow out the ones where there was no reciprocity. I gotta admit that my dance card was pretty thin for a while. And damn if I didn’t find myself in the very situation I dreaded, alone.




But then an amazing thing started to happen. I started to like myself enough and regard myself highly enough that I didn’t mind the solitude. It turns out that you attract people who value you to the extent that you value yourself. And that is what this ninja-boundary supersales chick knew that I didn’t.


One thing, though –


Since we all have rough patches when we need to receive more than we can provide, there will be times when you carry the load of the relationship. Your friend is getting a divorce and needs more than she can give, your company is temporarily short-staffed and you are asked to pick up the slack for the time being.


The key to deciding when you are over the line with giving seems to be this – you begin to notice a niggling dissatisfaction in your lizard brain (remember this week’s post on Notice What You Notice) and, when examined over the longer term, the commitment of both parties seems about equal.


If not, and you’re habitually giving too much, you gotta ask yourself, what do you get from getting nothing? Because for sure for sure, you’re getting something from being treated like llama dung. And once you no longer need that thing, which is usually freedom from some version of self-centered fear, you will begin to attract fairer relationships, as well as the confidence that comes from finding an inner source of strength rather than looking for love in all the wrong places.

Love, Jennifer

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2 Responses to Play Fair (It’s Not What You Think!)

  1. Kesha Brown says:

    Now this post is a keeper! Shared it, tweeted it, dugg it, stumbled it… LOL

    I want everyone to read this post and am on a mission to make that happen 🙂

    You have spoken true words here and you gave me an idea of the message I could start leaving on client’s vmails 😉


    • Jenny says:

      Well thank you, Kesha. And thank you to super-ninja-boundary-sales-chick whereever she is tonight (Probably counting her money at the bank!) That woman was something, I’m telling you. We’ll just keep passing her message on to all the other girlfriends out there until everyone knows how to handle that nonsense.

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