Ranking and linking

I’ve been wanting to say something about this for a while, and I’m going to do it here, because I don’t yet understand how it relates to Conscious Startups – though I know that it does.

Ranking and linking are two fundamental ways we humans relate to each other. They’re both natural and necessary, but they’re very different and serve different purposes.

Ranking is when we rank each other on some scale – you’re better, smarter, richer, handsomer, more powerful, more imposing, higher up the chain of command, etc., than me – or the other way around. This happens when we play sports, compete for a job, a mate, and so on.

Linking is when we say “good morning”, “nice to see you”, we hug, shake hands, when we see and listen to each other. Linking is when we’re just connecting, and there’s no ranking going on. We’re equals, we’re both humans. Love is a form of linking.

Something that struck me about my relationship with Denmark vs. the US is that Americans are much better at linking. When you’re at the supermarket or at the coffee shop or at the restaurant, you chat with your waiter, the cashier, the barrista, you chat with the other customers, you chat when you’re in line for the restroom, you chat with everyone around you. Linking, linking, linking, linking.

When I go from Denmark to the US, I’m always annoyed for the first few days that people are so darn chatty. Leave me alone, dammit! But then after a couple of days, I start enjoying it, and it becomes part of the general fabric of feeling joyful about your everyday activities, about just being.

When I go from the US to the Denmark, I again have to go through a period of adaptation. Eventually I get used to it, but I never start to enjoy it.

When we were in Phoenix last month, we found ourselves regulars at the Fair Trade Coffee Shop, where we started chatting with one of the barristas. Turns out she was half Danish, born and raised in Phoenix, and she actually spoke Danish fairly well. Neat! How often does that happen?

She told us that a few years back, she’d decided to spend one year living in Denmark. And the one thing she highlighted about Denmark was exactly this: That people don’t talk to each other on the street or at the supermarket or at the coffee shop and so on. And it really bothered her. And when she got back to the US she had the same reaction as me for the first few days, but then realized how much she’d missed it and just adapted to the Danish style.

I’m not going any place in particular with this, other than to introduce to you the concepts of ranking and linking, because I think they’re crucial in all kinds of relations.

You need to know when you’re doing what, because when there’s too much ranking and not enough linking, something crucial is lost. And that goes for startups as well – both within and without of the company.