Home Thinking Aloud The Art Of Trespass: Building Bridges In Personal And Professional Relationships

The Art Of Trespass: Building Bridges In Personal And Professional Relationships


by Vijay Eswaran, Founder and Executive Chairman of the QI Group of Companies


The word may conjure images of legal disputes and unwelcome intrusion, but I use it as a metaphor for something far more nuanced: the delicate dance of navigating personal and professional relationships.

In my view, “trespass” isn’t a violation, but a permission we grant – the right to enter the metaphorical “home” of our minds and lives. This permission, however, isn’t a one-time pass. It’s a constantly evolving negotiation, a bridge we build and rebuild with those around us.

What it is, really, is the structure to create appropriate personal boundaries, something most of us could use some work on.

Imagine your mind as a private residence. Just like your physical home, you wouldn’t allow everyone unrestricted access. This principle also applies to personal relationships. We grant trespass in varying degrees, allowing close friends and family deeper access than casual acquaintances.

This trespass establishes boundaries. When a friend crosses an invisible line, venturing into topics you’d rather keep private, it’s a sign that trespass boundaries need to be renegotiated. A simple “Hey, I’m not comfortable discussing this” can be all it takes to re-establish the relationship’s parameters.

But that isn’t easy. How do you tell a close friend “no” without feeling like you’re withholding, or even damaging the friendship dynamic? How do you tell a family member you’ve known your whole life that you don’t want to talk about something they bring up?

Part of the answer involves framing. Trespass isn’t a permanent right. Just like a visa, it has an expiration date. Every interaction with someone requires a tacit renewal of permission. This constant negotiation fosters trust and respect.

Without the boundaries established through the trespass principle, a relationship becomes transactional – a series of impersonal contacts instead of a meaningful connection.

For some dynamics, this is fine. Perhaps a friend with whom you play football on weekends every now and again doesn’t need to have full access to you, or you them. The transactional dynamic, in this case, is sufficient for both parties.

But more meaningful relationships, both personal and business, don’t flourish by subsisting on transactional behaviour.

If you delve deeper, you’ll find that ego plays a significant role in the dynamics of trespass. Someone with a strong ego builds rigid walls around their metaphorical home, limiting the depth of relationships. Conversely, individuals free from ego are more open to granting trespass, fostering deeper connections.

I extend the trespass metaphor to professional settings as well. A police officer’s badge grants them a specific type of “professional trespass.” Their role allows them to ask personal questions, crossing boundaries that people normally wouldn’t tolerate.

Similarly, an employer has a professional right to inquire about certain aspects of your life, but these boundaries have limits. And knowing how to set them is important.

Even a boss’s authority isn’t unlimited trespass. It is important to re-establish professional trespass boundaries within these relationships. A good manager will understand that respecting personal space fosters a more positive and productive work environment.

Ultimately, trespass isn’t just about permission; it’s about building bridges. By establishing and respecting boundaries, we create stronger, more meaningful connections in both our personal and professional lives.

By adopting this trespass metaphor, we can approach relationships with greater awareness and intentionality. This fosters a life filled with stronger connections, built on mutual respect, and understanding.

Some of you may feel that all this sounds good in a theoretical and abstract context. Words like “intentionality” and “awareness” are often used to suggest that being in that state is a good thing. But in practical terms, these skills are essential.

People do business with people they know. People enjoy time with friends and family because of the bonds they share. Relationships rise and fall based on the true strength of their trust.

Vijay Eswaran

Vijay Eswaran is an entrepreneur, speaker, and philanthropist. He is the Founder and Executive Chairman of the QI Group of Companies, a multi-business conglomerate with headquarters in Hong Kong, offices in more than 25 countries and customers in over 100 countries.