“Intimacy Implies Loyalty”
We believe above all in enabling choice and that there are a huge range of relationship arrangements that would constitute making good choices. The aphorism “Intimacy Implies Loyalty” is actually, like the aphorisms that accompany our Launch Box and Power Adapter, an observation about what is necessary to have a healthy community. In this aphorism, the notion of “implies” can go both ways: just as intimacy naturally goes with loyalty, loyalty goes with Intimacy. Another way to think of it is that if you are interested in receiving loyalty from someone, then it is a good idea to nurture an intimate relationship with them, and if you desire closeness with others, you will want to offer them your loyalty.
Intimacy is an often misunderstood, yet essential part of experiencing meaning in life. The word intimate is often used as shorthand to mean a sexual relationship, when in fact this is just a small part of Intimacy. Eastern thought promotes a more accurate use of the word when it describes enlightenment as an intimacy with all things. In order to understand why this aphorism is so important, and why we believe it to be essential to sustaining a healthy community, it helps to more fully understand what intimacy is. Intimacy is a familiar and close connection with another as a result of a bond that is formed through knowledge and experience of the other. Genuine intimacy in a relationship requires candid dialogue, transparency, vulnerability, and reciprocity. By embracing these values, we move beyond simple rapport building to create the conditions for trust to evolve (trust being a necessary ingredient of loyalty). Loyalty is very important to the integrity of any group. A desire for loyalty is the desire to see a group persist over time. It is the hope that amidst the myriad choices a person is faced with each day (for example, the choice between 40 different brands of toothpaste) we will choose to return to a particular person, group, or product again and again. The successful long-term strategy for those hoping to receive loyalty from a customer, employee, or friend, is to be trustworthy, and nurture that close, personal connection, showing up for the spontaneous, unscripted interactions that characterize an authentic relationship.
Especially when considering intimacy as necessary for loyalty to a business, It is important to understand the difference between intimate relationships and strategic relationships, or relationships of exchange. Although intimacy may exist in a strategic relationship, it is governed by an agenda of which the other person may not be aware. This happens when a person seeks to become close to someone in order to get something from him or her that might not be offered so freely if it did not appear to be an intimate exchange, and if the ultimate strategy had been visible from the beginning. A 1982 study by Mills and Clark found that emotionally intimate relationships are much more robust and can survive considerable and even ongoing disagreements. Think for example, of the great variety of small and large disagreements that make up the life of a large family. Despite this, members often continue coming together in times of joy and hardship to experience life’s happenings within the context of the familial group across an individual’s entire lifetime. Exchange relationships on the other hand have been found to be fragile, easily breaking down when there is any amount of disagreement. An example of this would be a once local customer to a health food store who decides never to shop there again after learning that they mistreat their employees. We see this fragility evidenced in the way that business owners invest a great deal of time in training new employees, making it important to try to keep those people around long enough for their newly developed skills to be used in service of the company. This agreement that the employer will provide help in meeting our basic needs for food and shelter in exchange for our time, skills, and labor, is proven to not be enough to motivate people to give a company their loyalty or give their job their all. Businesses with a high degree of turnover are likely relying too heavily on the strategic aspect of the relationship, with not enough (or any!) attention paid to developing real bonds of connection between team members. Marriages tend to disintegrate when there is insufficient energy invested in maintaining intimacy in the relationship and members of the union fall back on the strategic aspects of the partnership to ensure that it continue.