What Drives Human Behavior? (Pt.II)

Welcome back

For those of you who tuned in earlier this week: Good to see you again! If you are just tuning in, you may want to consider going back to read the first part. The rest of you, let's dig in!

Value Exchanges

Nearly every interaction between people is a value exchange. You plop down to turn on the telly and watch some shows. The value provided you is clear: entertainment.

The television industry, the network, and the content producers are all working together to provide enough value to convince you to willingly pay the various fees for the products you are now enjoying. You are paying them for the effort they put in, and you are receiving the ability to indulge in these products whenever you are willing and able. They provide the value of entertainment, and you provide cash and advertising revenue witnessed throughout the programs.

Hopefully neither of them has a dirty mind
Some unconventional value exchanges:
  • Christine vents about her terrible day to Crystal. 
    • Christine is getting emotional support and the value of being heard; Crystal is giving value by listening, and receiving value for the feeling of being supportive and a good friend.
  • Josh drives his Grandma to church every Sunday, even though he is an atheist. 
    • Josh is clearly giving his Grandma value by ferrying her to and from church, but he also receives value in the form of being a good relative and Grandson. His return is feeling good about himself and maintaining/building the relationship; his investment is time.
  • Todd is a really quiet guy and doesn't have much to say. He is agreeable and a good listener. 
    • Listening, and attention are both value-laden activities. People like to speak, but they like to be heard even more. This is to show that you don't have to be actively giving information or doing things in order to provide value.
  • Gabe is a very genuine person and has few insecurities. He gives compliments freely, and does not judge others. 
    • Passing judgment takes value by making the judger feel powerful, while making the judged feel worse. Genuine compliments, clearly, give value.

A Heads Up

The following terms are ones that I have come up with. If you Google the terms, you will probably find a variety of things, but be unlikely to find what I'm proposing. Bear in mind that these are my theories on how people work based on my experience, what I picked up in my psych undergrad, and the various books I've read since then. With that in mind, let's continue!
Probably best to avoid these...

Value Vacuums...

A value vacuum, also known as a leech, is someone who gives as little value as possible in most of their exchanges. This is the group that younger me would fall into. I soaked up emotional support, gave very little, and was lucky that people hung around with me. Of course, I didn't know it at the time. People who have been burned a lot, or have a generally negative perspective will tend toward this path because they feel that everyone is out for #1, and they might as well do the same. This is the taker's mentality. The mantra of the Value Vacuum, at it's core, is as follows:

"Life is difficult. Everyone is out for their own interests, so we should take what we can before others get in our way. It is a zero-sum game and I intend to win it."*

It is also incredibly short sighted. People will avoid value vacuums - once recognized - as much as possible, though the vacuum may not know why. While the Vacuum may go unnoticed for a time, they will eventually be found out and expunged. People usually regret helping vacuums because they give as little in return as possible, and thus the helper will not do so again in the future. Bad Karma.

Jane is a huge downer. She takes every opportunity to complain about all her ailments, the injustices that have befallen her, and how people are all untrustworthy. Kate listens patiently, and comforts Jane whenever she is down like this. Kate is Jane's only friend.
Jane is a Vacuum. To emotionally comfort someone takes effort - value - on the side of the comforter. By comforting Jane, Kate is providing value. In turn, Kate is also receiving value from Jane, indirectly.

Though Jane is constantly being needy and providing very little in terms of value, she does provide the opportunity for Kate to feel like a good friend, and to view herself as someone that can be depended on. Kate doesn't abandon her friends in hard times. She will continue to do this for some time, but will likely stop being such a support if Jane continues to complain indefinitely, and takes no action to help her situation. At that point, Kate may continue to listen, but with increasingly less patience as Jane continues down this path.

A concrete example would be if you had a pit behind your house where you threw things in. Sure, it's useful to have for a bit, but when the hell will this pit finally be filled? Will it ever be filled? Maybe you should just move instead of dumping more resources into filling it. Most people will come to this conclusion with a vacuum, unless they reach some sort of codependent equilibrium. Don't do this.

Adam Smith might frown upon this

...and Fountainheads

Value Fountainheads are people who consistently give more than they take. More often than not, they will not keep a running tally of the favors they have performed. Keeping track is more in the mentality of the vacuums, the takers.  The mantra of the Fountainhead is as follows:

"There will always be more value to create and give, and it's easier to create more value when working alongside others."

Fountainheads could be someone who just tends to be helpful, might bring coffee or snacks to gatherings, proposes doing fun things, or simply provide useful information to people. The more of a fountainhead you are, the more you'll find people going out of their way to help you for no apparent reason. This includes people who you may not have directly helped yet.

One final example:
Frank has a bodyguard, Edward. Frank is a controversial, cutthroat political figure, prompting certain special interest groups to attempt an assassination. Lucky for Frank, Edward sees the attacker coming, and purposely takes the bullet, saving Frank's life.
Some might argue that Edward is being compensated handsomely for his position through his payment. Sure. How many of you run a quick calculation in your head of how much you're being paid and how much it's worth being shot for? It's a gut reaction, not a logical calculation.

Just Givin' It Away
For Edward, he would have to place value on service, on his boss's life, on sacrifice. To him, taking the bullet for his employer has more value - in that moment - than most anything else. If he valued his life more or equal to his employer, or did not place value on service / sacrifice, he would probably do what a lot of people would do and not take the bullet. "Better him than me," right?

If he even thought the value exchange was close - Frank's life being roughly on par with his own - he probably wouldn't do it. If there is no perceived addition of value in saving another life, why would you trade your own to save it? Lucky for us, emotions (pride, honor, duty, justice) give us the added value for such acts of bravery and selflessness.

Understand Value, Understand People

This is only scratching the surface of an already complex topic. I hope my perspective was clear and it shed some light on how you - and the people in your life - operate. If I did my job well, you will begin to see how value pervades even the most minute of interactions, from a simple smile, to the more complex social structures within the world of business and politics.

I will continue evolving this idea in my next post!

*They may pretty it up and paint themselves as victims. "Why can't people just get along and help one another?" they may spout. They don't realize that what they're asking is "why can't people give me more value?" as they often aren't willing to give very much in return, always expecting more.

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