I’ve been reading Diane Ackerman’s ‘A Natural History of the Senses.’ It’s an intriguing book about the biology, culture, and indulgence of our five senses. Such a book increases your perception of things. What is a kiss, but the smelling and tasting of a loved one’s aroma and sweat? But the real meaning is the sharing of affection. And then there is the handshake. This is an exchange of heat and kinetic energy. That is the physical meaning, but the mental connotation is a passing of trust, of welcome.
In business, many things have become symbols, like a handshake. The mental meaning has been lost. A good example is the receipt from a purchase. Cashiers hand this to you as a gesture of goodbye and good riddance. It has become a symbol of a transaction being done, rather than a record of an agreement to exchange goods. And when you go to return a product, some businesses want a reason. Rather accepting you aren’t satisfied, they want a good reason why they should bother to take it back and restock it.
It is similar with contracts. A contract has become this goal, this highly desired symbol of success. In actuality, a contract is an agreement to exchange services. Usually, it is one man (or company’s) services for another’s payment. Contracts are supposed to be honored, satisfaction guaranteed on both sides. Rather, there are lawsuits everyday for breach of contract. Some do not value the promise a contract used to be and should still imply.
With our modern times, with business happening at the speed of electrons, the meaning behind things has been replaced with every day simplicity. Try to perceive the original intention behind an act. And the next time you say to a business associate, “How are you?” remember that it is a question and not just a nicety.