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Saturday, June 06, 2009

HEADLINE: Insani-FREE: The Hidden Relationship Killer

“At my lemonade stand I used to give the first glass away free and charge five dollars for the second glass. The refill contained the antidote.”

- Emo Phillips

WARNING! This column contains FREE information. Since it is FREE, it’s probably of little value and therefore, you have the following options:

1.) Stop reading now – while it might be FREE, it’s probably a waste of time – we all know that anything of value must COST A LOT OF MONEY

2.) Discover what the “catch” is – is there really something of value here that’s being offered? – what’s Adam getting at? (besides ending sentences with prepositions)

3.) Pay me a large sum of money out of spite and continue reading, or

4.) Pay me a large sum of money to shut me up (good luck with that).

I have important and grim news for all who have the courage to read on…

…this planet is suffering from a “hidden killer”…

…it often comes disguised as something useful and welcome, but always (and eventually) gets us in the end…

I’m talking about “FREE”.

OK…it’s not that the term itself is to blame, but rather our common misinterpretation and lack of understanding of its implications that leads us into very dark water. My article this month is about understanding such implications.

What does this have to do with networking?


Bait and Switch?

How often have you downloaded FREE virus/spyware/adware/registry error scanning software, and receiving the scan for FREE, to find that the viruses/spyware/adware/registry errors detected can only be removed if you agree to purchase of a one-year license of the actual software?

How about getting FREE alarm system (an $X value!) if you agree to purchase of a one year contract for home monitoring?

How about a FREE entrée at your favorite restaurant if you agree to purchase of another at equal or greater value?

Last but not least…a FREE 3-day, 2-night getaway to a fabulous resort if you agree to a “short” sale presentation?

Just what exactly is going on here…has the world gone mad?

What’s wrong with these companies? Why can’t they just give us something ABSOLUTELY FREE WITHOUT ANY OTHER STRINGS ATTACHED? WHY MUST I AGREE TO ANYTHING ELSE?

The immediately proceeding dialog is more a caricature of an attitude you have most likely experienced in your life at some point – whether you’ve noticed it within others or yourself. It is indicative of what I call “Insani-FREE”; an “insanity” around or at best, a misunderstanding of the term “FREE”.

Understanding “FREE”

To understand “FREE”, we must first ask the question, “Why do we do anything for FREE?”

This is much like saying, “Why do we do anything nice for someone else?”

The answer comes down simply to “increase Relationship Capital”, or as it is more commonly-known, “to build a better relationship”.

The reasons for increasing Relationship Capital (RC) can mean anything from making a friend, deriving a future revenue source, gaining sponsorship or backing to fund one’s dream, finding a new career opportunity, being seen more favorably and much, much more.

In this way, “FREE”, is one way of initiating a relationship – it’s an invitation (or offer) to enter a relationship, if you will. But for there to be a relationship (last time I checked, it was a “two-way street”), every invite must elicit a response (or agreement). Therefore, a response to an invite is an agreement to participate. Does this sound familiar to you? Can you think of a fundamental Law of the Universe to which this is a direct application?

Some people call it the Law of Reciprocity. Others call it the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as they would do unto you”. Being a “recovering engineer and rocket scientist”, I usually look to Newtonian Physics to explain such phenomena.

In previous writings about the Laws of Relationship Capital, I have shown that RC behaves in a way that is Newtonian (see the Fourth Law of Relationship Capital for more). In this case, Newton’s Third Law comes to mind:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

When we fall victim to Insani-FREE, we fail to make this crucial connection. But wait…there’s more…

“FREE” Body Diagrams

One common engineering principal used to identify the components of any working system (mechanical, thermodynamic, electrical, hydraulic, etc.) is to model said system by using a free body diagram (FBD). Without getting too overly-technical (this is a business and social networking publication for heaven’s sake), here’s what a typical FBD looks like for a block of wood at rest on a table would look like:

By the term “at rest”, this block is considered to be static, and therefore all forces (signified by a capital “F”) acting upon it are equally balanced, both horizontal and vertical. If any one force acting upon the block of wood were to be greater than its opposing counterpart, then the block would begin to accelerate in the same direction as the greater force.

If we applied this to a human relation-based system, here’s what it might look like:

What this shows is a brand new relationship (or the rekindling of a long lost one – see the Fifth Law of Relationship Capital for more) with two equal and opposite forces acting upon it. The first (on the bottom) is an invitation or offer (let’s just say it’s a FREE one) and the second (on the top) is and equal and opposite response to it. What we have here has the potential to be the “start of a beautiful friendship”.

A few months ago, I wrote an article about Relationship Capital in the Workplace, in which I described the Relationship Capital Value (RCV) of individuals, products, organizations, relationships, etc. as having a value from -10 to 10, with -10 being highly unfavorable and 10 being highly favorable. Please note that these values are based solely upon the perceptions of all parties involved with the relation-based system.

In the above illustration we show a new relationship (with a neutral RCV status of zero) being acted upon by two equal and opposite reputational forces. This is great as far as illustrating a static relationship. In the case of a FREE offer (with the underlying motivation to make a sale), the object is to move the RCV from zero into the positive range through the timeless human principles of motivation, rhetoric, debate, manipulation, reasoning, banter, active listening, etc.

Therefore, the relationship must be made dynamic to increase RCV. How does one do this? By applying more force than that which is opposing it in such a way that is agreeable to the opposing force.

Real World Dynamic Relationships

Have you ever felt that you have put everything into a relationship (bent over backwards, was gracious, more than accommodating to others, given high-quality referrals) to improve it only to have it deteriorate because the other person or people involved didn’t reciprocate?

Have you ever felt that despite having considerably high amounts of Relationship and/or Intellectual Capital (who and what you know) you have not been able to leverage that into sufficient Financial Capital?

Where was Newton’s Third Law here?

How about the Ninth Law of Relationship Capital: Financial Capital is merely a reflection of and cannot exist without some combination of Relationship and Intellectual Capital?

Let’s take a look at what that might look like:

In this case, we have a “give and take” situation in which the “taking” is reducing RCV. There are several reasons for why this might happen – some of which are:

  1. The invitation/offer does not meet the needs of the other party, which might spark a strong adverse reaction, such as an insult
  2. The invitation/offer is overly aggressive to the point where the other party must counter with a stronger opposing response
  3. The invitation/offer is not appreciated by the other party and is met with lack of interest or apathy (yes…lack of interest or apathy can be a powerful reputational force)
  4. A misunderstanding in the perceived reputational force of the invitation/offer may cause a stronger opposing response due to mistrust or fear, a.k.a. Insani-FREE!!!
  5. The party behind the opposing responsive force wishes ill will upon the opposing party – perhaps seeking to “make an example” of them.

There are probably other reasons for why this phenomenon occurs and I will either leave this for the psychologists and other armchair philosophers out there or I may decide to tackle such issues myself in subsequent articles. Regardless, the real question to ask is, “how to we overcome such a loss in RCV?”

For the answer, we turn to Newton’s Second Law: Objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force and objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.

In mathematical terms, this is written as:

F = m * a


F is force

m is mass, and

a is acceleration.

In my discussion of the Fourth Law of Relationship Capital I apply this principle to networking (human-based relationship systems) as such:

F = Rm * Im


F is reputational force

Rm is reputational mass, and

Im is impact (the acceleration of RC, or for those mathematically-inclined, the second derivative of RC).

Therefore, if we wish to oppose, counter and reverse any negatively-declining RCV in any relationship we wish to preserve, we must apply a much stronger reputational force. This means:

1.) Increasing reputational mass, i.e. getting friends, family, contacts, followers, team members, co-workers into agreement to aid us, and/or

2.) Increasing impact through a stronger message, an ultimatum, physical means, etc.

The implications of this are considerable. Imagine being able to estimate and model the reputational force of social, political, marketing and managerial initiatives. What impact might this type of analysis have upon our lives?

My thinking is that this would increase awareness of identifying a stimulus or improved result, analyzing various scenarios and choosing the best response in order to increase RCV. I believe that all too often, we fail to take into consideration the intangible, yet most-important “human element” in our equations, calculations and plans.

One thing’s for sure…

…you will never look at a FREE offer the same way again!

Adam J. Kovitz is the CEO, Founder & Publisher of The National Networker (TNNW).

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The Emergence of the Relationship Economy

Relationship Capital is the cornerstone of the Relationship Economy, which RNIA defines as “a measurement assigned to individual and organizational entities based on the relationship interactions between them, and the interactions they have internally.” I am proud to have contributed discussion of the Ten Laws of Relationships Capital to the upcoming book The Emergence of the Relationship Economy, now out as an eBook and in hardcopy. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is being considered a “must read” for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy of The Emergence of the Relationship Economy, please click here.

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1 comment:

Jeff Schomay said...

How funny, I wrote about Newton's 3rd law too in my upcoming article!
Jeff Schomay

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The Emergence of The Relationship Economy

The Emergence of The Relationship Economy
The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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