We build barriers and walls all around us in many different ways but always to protect ourselves from some kind of real or perceived harm.

In our personal lives we are prone to keep certain things to ourselves lest they be misconstrued or, worse yet, used against us.   You know, when we build a wall around our feelings because we are afraid to let anyone in too easily so that we won’t be hurt.

When I practiced law the walls were of a different nature.  Dealing with your adversary, particularly, in litigation was much like playing a game of chess.  You did not want to tip your hand too soon and let the other side know your strategy or become aware of your game plan while at the same time you were trying to find out all you could about your adversary’s plans.  You were both trying to get a peek over the wall that each of you had built around your case.

Even when negotiating a settlement, neither side wanted to fully disclose the weaknesses in their case nor how much either party would accept or pay to settle.  If you tried to cut to the chase and demand your rock bottom settlement amount the other side always still believed you were hiding your true demand.   Full disclosure and frank conversations were always filtered through a wall of secrecy so that you did not reveal too much too soon and lose your advantage.

I have found that in running a small business you still need to build those walls.  When we try to establish a business relationship many times there is the jockeying for position, the posturing, and the carefully measured responses so that each side does not completely reveal their hand.  The walls are erected as soon as the first conversation starts.   It can be a long and arduous process to finally reach an agreement, if at all.

Even in ongoing business relationships there is a tendency to keep your guard up making it feel as if you are interacting with each other from behind two friendly but separate walled encampments.  Everyone is still holding their cards close to their chest.  I think the business community feels the need to guard its secrets even when there are no real secrets to guard.

When will all of these walls come tumbling down?  Probably never, since we need to protect ourselves, after all.

On Monday, Joe comments on downsizing to a core group of valuable employees in “The Few, The Chosen, And The Brave”.