The Price of a Cup of Coffee: reflections on gifts

A few months back, as a judge for a prestigious awards program for the Raleigh Public Relations Association, I enjoyed the opportunity to peruse an outstanding ad campaign with a new take on the “less than a cup of coffee per day” idea. It led me to reconsider my ideas about individual buying power and the magic phrase in question.

In the past month, I’ve enjoyed cups of coffee with connectors and potential clients and referral partners. In a couple of cases, I felt uneasy when the person I was meeting insisted on buying me a cup of coffee. And I didn’t really understand the feeling. After all, it was just a cup of coffee, right?

Anyone who knows me knows I love coffee, the ritual of it connects me to home and a happy childhood. I’d no more give up the scent of my morning coffee warming my heart than I’d give up hot showers, unless forced to do so.

So I began to really, really pay attention when I began to have difficulty closing sales conversations with clients. I began to check for energy leaks I’ve allowed around the energy of money in my life, and followed the trail back to the source. And here’s what I found.

Last week, I accepted a sample session from a potential referral partner, a common practice among those who want others to understand what they do so it’s easy to refer others. Ignoring the fact practitioners should be able to explain in words what they do without giving away free sessions, I accepted the gift.

That’s just not like me. More than a year has passed since I said “no more” to barter, trade, and free sessions. I limit discovery sessions related to business to those specific persons who are ready to work with me, simply to make certain we are a good fit. So why did I compromise? I initially said, “No, thank you,” to this kind, generous, and talented woman. But she scolded me just a tad for not being open to receive abundance, so I ignored my misgivings.

Please don’t misunderstand. The session was lovely, needed, and a blessing. But it was also an opportunity for the universe to teach, and, well, I’m here to learn. Suddenly I’m covered up in people who want to work with me if I’ll trade or barter. A second look is warranted.

As I followed the energy trail of my money leaks backward, I realized where the shift occurred. She bought me a cup of coffee. So did the woman I met last week. And another colleague bought my meal while I was in the bathroom when we met for lunch at a restaurant. So that line of inquiry brings me back to my original question.

What is the real cost of a cup of coffee?

Sacrifices Abundance Consciousness

The intention may be to share abundantly, but the unconscious underlying assumption is scarcity or lack. True abundance lies in sovereignty and wells from an internal source; when we don’t allow individuals to be sovereign in dealings around our businesses, no matter how small, we’re undermining our ability to co-create as equals.

Gifts Create Debts

The “gift,” as opposed to an “offering,” creates a relationship based on the owing of a debt. Essentially, the word debt comes from Latin from the French, de habere, which literally means to keep in one’s possession what belongs to someone else. An offering, on the other hand, is freely given and the outcome for the other person is left to choice.

Sacrifices Fair Exchange

Practically speaking, I’ve realized the exchange immediately removes the possibility of this person becoming a client. The relationship becomes more about me working at the level at which they are comfortable, than about my taking a leadership position through which I can facilitate their growth. If I accept the gift, I sacrifice my sovereignty and my ability to set an energetic example of what it means to be sovereign around money.

Increases Scarcity Mentality

Scarcity mentality takes over when gifts are exchange. No matter how well-intention, gifting assumes the other person does not receive enough to get their needs met. It also assumes they must give while they can. This in turn suggests the individual knows their OWN work is not self-sustaining, and they’re mirroring that reality for those around them.

So the next time someone offers me a coffee, and I say “No, thank you,” it’s not because I don’t welcome abundance into my life. It’s because I do.