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Four Rules to Understand What Makes People Tick

Four Rules to Understand What Makes People Tick
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    Breaking down human behavior into rules might seem like a gross simplification. But even with the complexities, it is easy to fall into the same mistakes. I’d argue that many heated fights, lost sales and broken hearts are caused by a few critical errors. If you make the wrong assumptions, you’ve lost before you begin.

    By keeping in mind these rules, you can avoid repeating the same mistakes.

    Rule One: People Mostly Care About Themselves

    People aren’t thinking about you. A damaging myth to buy into is believing the amount of time you think of yourself compares to the amount of time others think of you. In reality they are nowhere close. Take a look at this chart:

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      I’ve used this example before but I believe it deserves repeating. Take a look at the different slices of this chart. The biggest is the time you spend thinking about yourself. The second is the time spent thinking about relationships, but how they affect you. What does Julie think of me? Will my boss give me a raise or fire me? Do my friends respect me or just tolerate me?

      Only a tiny sliver is devoted to empathy. Empathy is the rare occasion where you think through the perspective of another person. When I’ve discussed these ideas previously, many people argue I’m being far too generous with my chart. In reality that sliver is probably even smaller.

      This means that you occupy only a tiny percentage of a persons thoughts. Waiting for people to invite you, becoming embarrassed at a minor faux-pas or emphasizing what others think of you come from failing to use this rule. Almost all people are far too self-absorbed to notice.

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      Rule Two: People are Motivated by Selfish Altruism

      To say all behavior is strictly selfish would be misleading. It fails to account for acts of charity, ethics and why people don’t just cheat, swindle and lie all the time. Selfish altruism is a broader category that covers why people do nice things as a way to get what they want.

      By studying primates, researchers noticed four main categories of selfish altruism. I believe they are the same categories we use, even if slightly more sophisticated:

      1. Dominance – Some primates will give help as a way of asserting dominance in the group. It is as if they are saying, “Look at how powerful I am that I can give some of my resources to help you.”
      2. Reciprocity – You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. The idea is that I do a favor for you with the assumption it will be returned one day. If the cost to me is less than the benefit towards you, I might help you even if I can’t predict an immediate payback.
      3. Trade – If we both have something the other person wants, we have a reason to interact. While reciprocity is vague on the details of a payback, trade is direct.
      4. Familial – It makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective, to help those who might share your genes.

      By looking through this lens of selfish altruism, you can better make decisions. Viewing people as completely uncaring or selfish is incomplete. But expecting people to think of you constantly and do nice things for free is dangerous.

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      Rule Three: People Don’t Think Much

      I believe we drastically overestimate what we do intentionally. Subconscious patterns, environmental stimulus and programmed reflexes occur frequently, even if we later take credit for them.

      The conscious mind is a relatively new addition to the human operating system. And it’s been designed to cleverly take credit for a lot of decisions it doesn’t really make. If someone asks you to be unbiased in making a decision, it is probably best to just laugh.

      The implication of this is that appealing entirely to thoughts won’t work. Since a bulk of decision making is made in the background, you need to target that background if you want to be influential. You don’t need to be manipulative, just smart enough to recognize that snap judgments mean a lot and your communication is more than just words.

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      Rule Four: Conformity is the Norm

      You become your environment. Uniqueness and individuality tend to warp to fit the people around you. This is true of other people as it is for yourself. It means you should be careful who you pick as friends, partners and colleagues.

      This is why I believe it is important to keep a varied social group. When you interact with people from completely different backgrounds, beliefs and behaviors on a regular basis you are more likely to see different perspectives. This also means you have more control in picking who you want to be.

      Applying the Four Rules

      Here are some applications of these rules you might want to consider:

      • What layers are you communicating with? If people are selfish, self-absorbed and fail to think much, just working on the words you use isn’t enough. Everything about you is communicating something, and unless you get that message straight, the most persuasive argument won’t win anyone over.
      • Give reminders. Although some people are meticulously organized, most aren’t. Give people the reminders they need so you don’t get left out unintentionally.
      • What’s your social value? This isn’t your worth as a person, but what you have to offer in terms of other peoples needs and wants. It is easy to get depressed about human issues, if you don’t see the calculations behind it. Improve the value you offer and you can access the selfish altruism in us all.

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      Scott H Young

      Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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      Last Updated on January 18, 2019

      7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

      7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

      Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

      But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

      If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

      1. Limit the time you spend with them.

      First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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      In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

      Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

      2. Speak up for yourself.

      Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

      3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

      This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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      But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

      4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

      Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

      This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

      Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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      5. Change the subject.

      When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

      Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

      6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

      Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

      I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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      You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

      Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

      7. Leave them behind.

      Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

      If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

      That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

      You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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