This past weekend I visited the Zoo. Looking at all of these animals separated from the crowds, in some cases to product the crowds from the animal (black bear/lions/vipers) and in other cases to protect the animal from the crowds. The separation prevented me from going in and it prevented them from going out. Are the animals in a cage or are the crowds? Depends somewhat on your perspective.
We’ve all heard that good fences make good neighbors. But putting your neighbor in a cage usually doesn’t turn out so well. It seems to me that the difference is one of perspective.
Fences delineate boundaries, cages indicate control. Fences strive toward a common understanding, cages strive for self protection. Fences are open, cages are closed.
Often times when we are negotiating legal contracts we start out by striving to create fences. Statements that lead to a mutual understanding of expectations. Done right, these contracts are beneficial to the relationship as they add clarity; however, it is very easy in these kind of negotiations to begin to strive for self-protection and built a cage around the other party.
This is when perspective shifts and with deleterious consequences. Rather than working toward mutual clarity, each is now competing before the relationship has even begun. And since control and trust are inversely correlated, this ultimately breaks down trust which is fundamental to having a synergistic relationship – which is usually the whole reason you started to write a contract to begin with.