What Drives Human Behavior? (Pt III)

Relevant enough.

Ladies and Gentlemen..

Welcome to the third - and final - part of this ever-exciting series of Value! For those of you just tuning in, you can find Part I here and Part II here. Ever feel like you're putting in all the work and your friend or partner is not pulling their weight in the relationship?! Let's begin by looking at how value imbalances in relationships work.


As a quick refresher:

  • Fountainheads: People who give as much value as possible
  • Vacuums: People who take as much value as possible

Most people have an intrinsic feeling when they are being taken advantage of. Sometimes fountainheads will find themselves in situations where it was once balanced, but the scales have become one-sided. It's up to the Fountainhead to address this situation and rectify it by either stopping the ongoing exchange, or changing it. Why is it up to the fountainhead? Because the vacuum may not even notice that they're doing it.

As John Gottman shows us below [1:30], there is a magical relationship ratio between our positive and negative interactions. For every negative interaction we have with someone - a bad night, a big fight, a nasty slight - we need five positive interactions - a surprise delight, kissed and hugged you tight, a cuppa that's just right -  to even the scales.

Think of the last time you were fighting with someone close to you, preferably one who is back on good terms. When you were fighting, you probably noticed all their glaring defects. The annoying way they hock a loogie, the gross hairs on their toes, or even their bad breath. If the ratio was in balance, you probably wouldn't notice them. Some of them might even be endearing qualities (maybe not the loogie), but when the relationship is out of whack, all of them compile to make them that much more hateable. This results in splitting, the psychological term for when we see someone as either all good or all bad, but not as the realistic, flawed human beings that we all are.

I'm not saying that value necessarily follows the same ratio, but if we have a measurable, consistent tracker for the good-to-bad ratio in our relationships, then we sure as hell have a similar - if not the exact same - mechanism to detect when someone takes advantage of us. Of course, these things are not black and white, but shades of grey.. no one is a perfect fountainhead or vacuum

John in Action

High- vs Low-Value Behaviours

It all goes back to what people value. How an action or behaviour will be interpreted relies on four factors: audience, context, and perceived intent.  For example:
  • John wants to buy Clara pint of beer. Generosity is generally a high-value behaviour. But let's say Clara is a recovering alcoholic. Although she may appreciate his generosity, the gesture does not have as much value thanks to the Context.
Rather than a recovering alcohol, Clara is driving down the road and John pulls a pint out of his pocket. It would be inconvenient for Clara to drink said pint while driving, as it might spill. Also, it's highly illegal.

Apt for how actions can be interpreted
But wait! She's not on the highway anymore, She's back in a bar. With John. Now he is insisting that she she accept a drink from him and won't take no for an answer. It seems like he might have unsavory (perceived) intentions.

Examples of High-Value Behaviours:
  • Being honest, yet tactful in difficult times 
    • Instead of "those pants makes you look fat" you might say "I think you have pants that will suit that outfit better."
  • Earnest listening
    • Instead of "wow, that sucks" think "I hear that you're feeling like you're turning Japanese"
  • Giving Genuine Compliments
    • "You have a really nice upper lip!"
Examples of Low-Value Behaviours:
  • Complaining
    • "This money's weighing my pockets down" or "What gives! This is bunk."
  • Stealing
    • Unless he steals your heart
  • Only speaking about yourself
    • What was I saying? Oh right! Me.
If reviewing this list makes you think of how society portrays conventional morality, then you're on the right track. Generally speaking, our moral systems seem to be based on the idea of providing value as good, and taking value as bad. Again, outside factors, such as context, matter. If you went on a murderous rampage in defense of an orphanage against a horde of bigots and zombies, people may be a bit more inclined to forgive you*.

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Are Some People "Higher Value" than Others?

Why do I think that people can be high-value and others low-value? The simplest evidence is that some people are highly sought after dinner guests, while others have the door slammed in their face. It doesn't mean that their life is inherently less valuable, only that their behaviours are less socially desirable.

He's the Man
The reason I'm focusing on behaviours is because who you are is a collection of the behaviours - the actions - you perform regularly. We can say whatever we like, but who we are is what we do. Therefore, how valuable we are to others as a person will result from a balance between our high- and low-value actions - not beliefs. Note: Speaking is an action.

In Closing

If you're reading this and worrying that you're a "low-value" person, don't fret. We all have low-value tendencies. As I stated at the beginning of part one, I started with a lot of lower value tendencies myself, yet I still had friends and have figured out how to make myself a better person through this perspective.

By analyzing our behaviours and thinking about whether we're taking more than giving, we can work to slowly eliminate our greedier tendencies and instill more giving behaviours. Often it just requires a little less laziness, such as cleaning your dishes, or cleaning up a common space for others. Holding your tongue, holding the door, or holding onto something for someone.

Why bother? If you need self-interested motives, it's fairly plain to see: People help those who help others. People like people who help others. If you ever need help, there will likely be more people around you, and a higher percentage of them who are willing to lend a hand. This is the underpinning of that phrase "The more you put out there, the more you get back."
How about it, chaps?

Bottom line: any time you see a simple, small act that could help someone get ahead, choose to put that tiny bit of effort in and you'll find the world opening up to you in surprising ways. The cost is little, and the reward is huge.

That being said, if you enjoyed this series, Please Share it.
Take this and be well!

Editing Music: Retrograde by James Blake**

*Then again, that's a pretty selfless act, which would be an extremely high-value act. Unless you were being paid a large sum to do so... the rabbit hole goes deep.
**Ever wonder why I list the music i'm listening to? I do it because it's just a little bit more value I can add to the post by providing new music to anyone interested. It's the same reason I put stupid jokes under the pictures, and links sprinkled throughout posts. It's that tiny extra bit of effort that I'm hoping someone will appreciate.

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