Quality Over Quantity: How American Consumerism Shaped Our Relationships

Grit and Productivity

The story of American consumerism is full of grit and productivity. Generations of Americans were driven to produce more than the previous week, month, or year – they were told to meet deadlines and reach goals and they did. There was pride in their work and product and it showed.

Things change as margins grew tighter and demands grew larger. We wanted more and we wanted it quicker than before. Businesses started adopting models that valued quantity and availability over quality. Slowly, pride in the product faded as the quality started to slip and we were left with a shadow of what once was. Quantity had won the war over quality and we were going to have to learn to deal with it – or so they thought.

Changing Models

Lately, there has been a resurgence of people and businesses choosing just the opposite. Many restaurants have signs referencing longer waits in exchange for quality in-house made food. Craft breweries and beers are experiencing formerly untapped and unparalleled success as they model local connection and a deep pride and passion for quality products. Companies are talking about passion for their products and people, a hearkening back to the ‘good ole’ days’ where quality was supreme. The landscape is changing and businesses are starting to compete again for having the ‘best’ and not the ‘most’.

While this movement in the business world is encouraging we have not moved on unscathed. Whether we know it or not this experience started to shape not just our pocketbooks but our hearts. We started to not only demand ‘more for less’ in our purchases but more for less in our relationships.

We started to not only demand more for less in our purchases but more for less in our relationships. Click to Tweet

Changing Times

We now live in the wake of our demands and it came be devastating for some. People feel like they have become isolated and alone because of others where in reality they themselves may have given up on the long suffering of relationships. Their consumer needs were met this way so why not relationships as well? Relationships were never products to be acquired but we started to believe they could be. The desire to have more quality relationships quicker only left us with just the opposite and now we are scrambling to reset.

The good news is, just like some businesses today, there is hope. It will take some very intentional and deliberate steps to turn this ship around. So, If you have felt the dissatisfaction of the relationship drain in your life, here are some ideas to help start the road to deeper and more quality relationships.

Quality Takes Time

There is no shortcut to quality, unfortunately. Something is always sacrificed or lost when we favor expediency, whether the motives are good or bad. This is true in our relationships as well. The relationships that stand up to difficult times have learned to do that over time. To the degree that you focus on depth of relationships, ironically, it grows to new heights.

Quality Takes Intention

Just like the businesses that have started to change their models, we may need to look at our margins and ask some harder questions about our motives. Are our relationships, like some of the businesses, only useful if there is a transaction or benefit or are they meaningful because the people are worth it?

Large companies like Starbucks and Zappos talk a lot about giving and there is a good reason for that. They have found that in giving and not always asking,  a loyalty is or relationship is formed. These loyalties or relationships are not easily broken – they are of a high resiliency and quality. Yes, ultimately the business is in it to make money but the premise remains the same. To have quality relationships takes intentionality by both parties – to commit to working at it, whether it is hard or not.

Quality Takes Feedback

Some of the most successful companies have found the secret to not only customer satisfaction but employee satisfaction as well. The pervasive cultural marker found in all of these companies is belonging and feedback. Managers, CEOs, and executives alike have found that when they listen to their employees and customers and cultivate a sense of belonging, people are generally much happier. Customers see the commitment from the company to listen to their needs and employees feel the commitment from their bosses to listen to their ideas.

These relationships are strengthened and galvanized producing quality that would be otherwise unattainable. The same goes with our relationships – being able to listen to feedback, good or bad, presents yourself willing to learn and grow. These are some of the fundamental pieces to the quality relationships we are looking for.

Quality Takes Commitment

It goes without saying that many businesses likely ran into some extremely difficult times when they switched their models – though it was worth it. Some of the old American grit was put back in its right place to produce the quality product rather than the quantity product. The businesses had to have clarity and resiliency to see through the fog and haze of losses and increases in expenditures in the present. They needed to commit to their foundations and convictions to see it through to where they wanted to be.

Relationships are built on the backs of this commitment. A relationship without commitment shrivels if it was ever a good one at all. Like the businesses who actively made choices to commit full resources to see their plan through, relationships demand the same.

We may feel the tension of committing too much of ourselves to so many people that we will burn out. This is where quality over quantity pays out. Where everyone one gets a little no one gets the whole. This lack of commitment to a few may be the greatest indicator, over the long run, of relationships dissolving. And this may be the hardest part to commit to but the one thing that produces the right result.

Greg Smith

Blogging about faith, life, church, and everything in between.

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