Why selfishness is a bless and will make you form better relationships

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Written by B

Why selfishness is a bless and will make you form better relationships

Nobody likes selfish people, right? That is why they don’t get very far in life. Well, no. Here is why you need to be selfish...

There is a common misbelief about how hard it is to be one of the "good" kids. Many people think that your life is easy because you have no conflict with your parents or teachers and you manage well to do in school or university. That makes an easy life, right? However, there is a very dark side to that, which nobody talks about but I will. Because "good" kids become "good" adults and that brings some difficulties with it.

I know a lot of "good" children - I am one myself. During childhood, we are very "kind", "caring" and "cute". We support others and lend a helping hand where we can. We put a lot of effort in our school work and engage in extracurricular activities. We keep on doing that during our lives. We want to not make a fuzz and seldomly ask for help. When we struggle, we put more effort in and work harder. We get very far by doing that. For some of us, there will be a point where we do not really move forward. Our way to that point was way harder than it could have been if we had learned one lesson earlier: It is okay to be selfish! 

Christina Berndt writes in her book about resilience, which is the ability to recover from severe setbacks, that resilient people are able to from supportive bonds with other people to get the support of persons and instructions they need. Funnily, when you are an unselfish person you have managed half the way. People already like you. Then why not ask for help?


Why we don’t ask for help? 

 Myth no.1: It is not okay to treat myself 

Why shouldn’t it be? This is your life. The only person you need to make happy is yourself. That is also when others will benefit. When you are happy and strong you can support others, and bring value to the world with energy and passion. Have you ever made a to-do-list? What are the things that you are most likely not to do? Right, the things right at the bottom. When you put yourself at the bottom of your own life-To-Do-list you are very likely to forget to treat yourself.


Myth no.2: Others know what I need and will give it to me

There is this common pattern that you give to others in the hope that they will magically return what you need. You have to take into account several aspects: Is that person you are being nice to a giver or a taker? So, will they ever return your kindness?

The second and most important aspect is that you need to communicate what you want and need. I studied psychology. Still, I cannot read people’s mind. I might be better than other people at guessing what people around me may think or need, however, I am stuck in my world view, which we all are. I give people things they don’t need but think I have done something valuable. Well, I haven’t. How often have you made a present that REALLY meant something to the receiver? Well, this gives you at least a hint, how often you have been wrong about people’s needs and tastes. When you were a child, weren’t birthdays a lot more fun? The presents a lot cooler? Well, that is not only because you received "fun" instead of "useful" presents, but because you made a list with things you wanted and thought you deserved. Despite money or implementation constraints (for most of us a visit to the Mars may not have been in the budget), at least a few of the things you wished for and thought you deserved found their way to the birthday present table. What do we learn from that? When you ask for what you want and others know it, then the likelihood rises that you get it. We often make the mistake that we expect loved ones to know what we need without us telling them. Well, that idea is fueled by the widely-propagated romanticism and has nothing to do with reality. Think about how people develop algorithms: they feed the system with information first. Feed people around you with information about your needs first. 


Myth no.3: People don’t like to help

Benjamin Franklin describes a very remarkable incident in his autobiography: Once he asked a rival legislator to lend him a certain book. That incident changed their whole relationship. The lender behaved a lot friendlier and they even became friends despite their rivalry. That sounds quite counterintuitive, right? Why would somebody like me more, although that person has done something for ME? This effect is called Benjamin Franklin effect, after this first encounter of Benjamin Franklin with this phenomenon and was later even studied experimentally by scientists like John Schopler and John Compere. Humans strive to align our cognition and behaviors. When our cognitions and behavior fall apart, we feel something called "cognitive dissonance". We do not like that feeling. Therefore, we either can change our behavior or our cognition. That happens when you ask a person that initially might not like you so much for a favor: Once they help you, their cognitions and behavior fall apart. Nobody helps somebody they do not like, right? They now adapt their cognitions and decide to like you more, so helping you is a logical consequence. So, you see: Asking for help is an elementary part of forming strong relationships! 


Published on Saturday 31st October 2020

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