A practical way of thinking about love, outside of the romantic, friendly or parental context, is to see it as goodwill. In a business context, where the idea of love might seem a little squishy, the idea of goodwill neatly accounts for the value residing in a relationship over and above its transactional value. When there is a great deal of goodwill in a business relationship, the partners are willing to do things they might not be willing to do on a purely transactional basis. This means employees that stay longer and work harder, customers who are more tolerant of mistakes and investors that are willing to cut the team some slack as it weathers competitive storms. Goodwill is a currency every bit as valuable as money. And partners in both business and life award and redeem points in a variety of ways.
When my new bride and I moved in together almost 23 years ago, she brought two little kittens with her. As cute as they were, I am a dog person and allergic to cats, so I met the move with more than a little resistance. When either of the cats horked up a steaming greasy hairball on the living room carpet, I naturally left Tania to deal with the mess that her cats made.
As a new husband on our first Valentine's Day, I triumphantly brought home the kind of super frilly, super uncomfortable lingerie only a man would think is a great idea for his wife. She met the gift with less enthusiasm than I was banking on and my romantic gesture failed to deliver the result I hoped.
A few weeks after that, we arrived home to an abnormally large steaming greasy hairball on the living room carpet and without any fuss or direction, I just cleaned it up. Well, it turns out that my wife awards way more points for that sort of thing, and my apparently loving gesture achieved what the lingerie could not a few weeks prior.
When my kids were younger, they each got giant chocolate bunnies for Easter. My youngest ate his first and then thought my eldest should share his. Of course, Kyle did not think that was very fair. I told him that he was in no way obligated to share anything with his younger sibling. But if he chose to anyway, he would have goodwill with me. How then can he cash his goodwill in? I let them both know when they were growing up that their job was to ask for everything they want in life. My job, as a parent, was to say no to most things. But if they have goodwill in their accounts I am significantly more likely to say yes when I could have said no. Kyle reminded me of this next time I said no to something and then reversed my to answer to yes.
We generate goodwill in a relationship when we do something for the other person that we don't have to do but takes care of something important and valuable to that person. The more goodwill we create over time the more help we mysteriously get from our people when we need it most. Good service is an act of love and acts of love create goodwill.