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The relationship continuum: From “It to Us”: Part 2 of 5 – Introducing our “Its”

On being an “It”..

The relationship continuum, from “It to Us” and introducing our “Its”. If you’ve read part one of this series, you should no longer be asking: What the heck is the “It to Us continuum”? If you haven’t read part 1 yet, please go have a look at that first as this blog will make a lot more sense if you do. In brief however, the “It to Us continuum” is my own little method for evaluating any given relationship and for determining how much personal commitment those involved have to each other, what brings them (and keeps them) together, and most importantly: the level of intimacy they share. In part 2 of this 5-part series, I’ll talk about the first level this “It to Us continuum”. Specifically, I’m going to talk about “Its” and how they fit into the overall picture.

99.9999% of the people we interact with fall into the “It” category. I do not mean this as a slight or insult in any way at all. What I mean by calling somebody an “It”, is that these are the people of the world who are but a tiny bit more to us than total strangers. Total strangers are those who never interact with us at all. Total strangers simply wander around the planet minding their own business and never really hit our own personal radar. They are the several hundred people on our train platform, or the population of Edinburgh or Little Whinging. Once people do begin to interact with us directly however, they then enter our “It to Us continuum” as an “It”.

An “It” is a person who is not really much more than the service or function they are providing us in that moment. They may be a taxi driver, the man at the ticket counter window or that girl at Costa who knows nothing more about us other than we like skinny cappuccinos, and all we know about her is that she works at Costa. We don’t really know “Its”, and they don’t really know us despite any direct interactions with them. I often refer to my post woman (my postie) in this category – here is a woman I smile at and say hello to almost daily but who I don’t really know in any way whatsoever. If she fainted on my doorstep however, I wouldn’t just roll her out into the road to get her off my step, I would treat her with the same respect and care that I would want any other human to treat me. I would help her, ensure she was ok, get her on to her feet, and help her to get safely on her way by whatever method seemed the most appropriate. This is the sort of human kindness we should be offering to all people, whatever their relationship to us may be, but with an “It”, our personal commitment generally ends there.

The point here is that whilst I would certainly help my postie (or any “It”) if in need, I wouldn’t necessarily spontaneously one day decide to invite her (or any “it”) in for a cup of tea and a visit. I’m also pretty sure that if I ever showed up at my postie’s home she wouldn’t invite me in for one either. If anything, she’d want to know how I knew where she lives! This is because I am just as much of an “It” to her (the man at number 44 who seems to work from home), as she is to me. We interact with each other at a basic level, but have little more duty or commitment to each other than basic human kindness (though she has to deliver my post). This is as it should be.

The “Its” of our life (those who are a touch closer than total strangers because there is a least a modicum of interaction), are one half step away from the starting field of prospects from which we narrow down our group of people to become close to as described in part 1. I say “one half step” away because of the way modern technology allows us to follow every relational whim or whimsy we may have and easily bring people into our lives with a simple swipe across a smartphone screen in the right direction. This makes the traditional gap between total strangers and “Its” very small indeed. The thing to remember here though is the defining aspect of an “It” is our level of commitment and duty to that individual and the manner in which it differs from our duty to the people much closer to us. For example, we would be unlikely to lend an “It” money. Equally, we would be unlikely to be invited to the birthday party or wedding of an “It”. Yes, an “It” would (hopefully) help us to our feet if they saw us slip on ice, but once they were certain we were ok, they would be on their way. That is the nature of an “I -It” relationship. Generally speaking (unless we’re online trolling for potential partners or out on the pull at a nightclub), the field of prospects from which we narrow down and refine our relationships comes from the second level along the “It to Us continuum”. These are what I call “situational relationships”. Situational relationships and where they fit on the relationship continuum are the subject of part 3 in this series.