I don't know what I like about it more, that it's from an earlier "simpler" world or that it highlights a problem that's just as important today: learning to tell the difference between and issue and a detail and dealing with them differently. Sounds like the original author had his epiphany 90 years ago. I wonder how that ended up changing his life.
(I have often commented here about issues vs. details. A few highlights:)
First, the author refrains from blaming those who were taking advantage of his "kindness" (loose boundaries, really, but he framed it to himself as kindness for so long). Instead, he takes full responsibility for his own misapprehensions about how the world works -- not his father, not his college-friend-turned-boss, not anyone else. Today, when I read posts about people who undergo this specific epiphany -- "nice guy syndrome" if I can call it something -- it inevitably is accompanied by resentment: other people are cruel and manipulative, women are bitches who don't want nice guys, investors are sociopaths who just follow trends, etc.
Second, and related to the first -- this man did not act simply in reaction to his epiphany. He didn't simply swing the other way, as if to say "well now I'll be a jerk to everyone else to punish them." Instead, he continued to be generous and magnanimous, but he took responsibility for drawing and enforcing his own boundaries. And those boundaries still included room to be generous and charitable, but what he gained was the facility to choose those traits.
Previously, he felt compelled to oblige and unable to resist the impositions of others. Now, he has the power to choose not to oblige, and he still chooses to oblige when he feels drawn to do it. And when he doesn't, he now can turn down the request.
As I said earlier, I have seen a lot of men arrive at the particular revelation that what they perceive as a kind and generous nature is actually compliance and subservience -- and then simply shut off that valve in reaction. I greatly admire this author's example of maintaining the choice to be generous, while gaining the capacity to choose the direction of his generosity.
For a humorous example of the wrong way to act after this epiphany, see the 1942 Joe McDoakes short film "So You Think You're a Nervous Wreck".
It's equally fascinating to see the parallels and the divergences in our culture.
That doesn't prove the truth of the rest of the story, of course.
- This is one of the hardest concepts to teach in enterprise sales nearly 100 years later. Too often customers (worse prospects) ask for all sorts of things from compliant sales people who never ask if it's necessary. References, POC's etc. The salesperson chews up hours of their time and other employees times because they don't have the backbone to say "No" or at least "Not yet" The rationalization is "I'm advancing the deal for the company!"
The salesperson does this because he'll get a nice commission if the sale goes through, and doesn't really care about the people whose time he's wasting.
Sometimes, the real cost of a sale can exceed the revenues to the company from the sale. For example, I've seen salesmen sell vaporware that the company then has to drop everything to implement, possibly a feature that's not of use to any of the company's other customers. The salesman gets his commission and doesn't care that the development group is tied up with the feature he sold and unable to work on the really important features.
If salesmen could receive a commission on profits rather than gross revenues it would give them incentives that are better aligned with the health of the company. Unfortunately, it's easy to calculate a salesman's revenues and very difficult to calculate the actual profits (or losses) attributable to him.
I don't know. Usually, when someone says they quit being nice I find it hard to believe that they were accommodating. Maybe I am wrong, but everyone I ever knew calling themselves nice actually wasn't, but rather the opposite.
Yeah, I am not a nice person. I never was and I will never be. Yeah, a lot of people call me nice, helpful and whatever, but come on that's what everyone gets to hear all day long.
Yeah, I spend working a lot and I spend my money for others and I have all my stuff second-hand because of that. I spend all night being awake, because there are people who rely on being. Yeah, on my way home I will bring your book to the library, so you won't be stuck in the traffic. Yeah, I feel better buying fair-trade goods - no actually, stuff that pays higher than fair trade stuff. But don't we all have something like that? I work more than 50 hours a week, spend most of my free time helping others and write here only because there really isn't anything else I can do right now - well besides thinking about what I could do better or sleeping (unlikely), when they need help (and someone always does), just to not feel like a bad person.
But come on, everyone else does so too and most people on this planet do way, way more or else things wouldn't run as day do. And if everyone else is like that how does it make sense to call you nice?
Okay, there are exceptions for all of this of course, but just because someone isn't a lazy asshole it doesn't make them nice or extremely accommodating, does it? And if someone has time to write a long article on how they are so accommodating are they really?
P.S.: I slept about 3-4 hours per night last year, because there always was stuff to do and I (really) worked until I fell asleep. I guess it affected me mentally, but people rely on me.
My advice for you is that your intelligence might be working against you, because it appears that you've constructed a [familiar to me] set of logical assertions which seem to support this viewpoint. It's like a perpetual motion machine which lets you congratulate yourself and seem like both the everyman and an ascetic at the same time. While it's possible that these things are all true, it's at least likely that you're flattering yourself.
Life is not black or white. By participating in HN are you nice for sharing your wisdom or egotistical and vain? By giving to charity are you paying it forward or celebrating your own self-image? People do things for selfless self-serving reasons all of the time. I personally don't think that this is a bad thing, so long as the end result is that people share wisdom and help those less fortunate.
Anyhow, I sense I'm rambling but in closing the author isn't suggesting that he stopped being a nice person, he's explaining how he was shocked into realizing that spending his time doing things for other people at the expense of those closest who deserved his priority was not a winning proposition. He could in effect be nicer by putting on his oxygen mask before putting one on his kid.
I work more than 50 hours a week, spend most of my free time helping others and write here only because there really isn't anything else I can do right now - well besides thinking about what I could do better or sleeping (unlikely), when they need help (and someone always does), just to not feel like a bad person.
So you say you're not a nice person, and yet you spend most of your free time helping others so as not to feel like a bad person?
Are you happy living like this? It might not be as necessary as it feels. People rely on me; I work 36 hours a week. Amongst my friends and contacts most people do not work until they fall asleep and would be consider the idea of doing so long term deeply unhealthy.
I don't know what the global situation really is, but want to point out that your immediate surroundings might be more local and unusual than they appear.
Why not try accepting 1 hours work less a day for a week and see whether thing get better or worse?
I enjoyed this article and I'm grateful to Mike Cane for turning me on to this charming bit of Americana. In those days, it was said that "The business of America is business" and the writings in this magazine fully reflect that belief. It's all about getting ahead, becoming the big boss, achieving financial security. Underlying it all is a naive yet practical optimism, a sense that we [white males] can achieve anything if we set our minds to it. It's a bit sad to think in contrast of today's narcissistic, short-sighted attitudes which are so prevalent.
I think if you think the story is about saying "No", then you've missed the point. The point is the mental shift between living reactively and ceding control to anyone who asks for it, to living with purpose and giving your time and attention to those people who deserve it.
People will resent you for being unreasonable. People will resent you when their expectations are not met.
When you are too accommodating, people may value your courtesy. However, they will expect you to be accommodating, and if you ever try to stop, they will resent you for violating their expectations.
If you say no when it's reasonable to do so, then you set fair expectations. People respect your fairness, so they don't expect more than is reasonable from you.
If you are unreasonable, people expect you to be unreasonable. They will ask little of you, but they wont have any respect for your character.
It's very easy, especially when you are worried about people's perception of you to be too compromising, which leads to unmanageable expectations and that feeling of persecution. It's your own fault when this happens, you've been silently making promises with your actions, and people get angry when you break them.
Say you go to a coffee shop every day and get a sandwich, and to be nice, the server gives you a free small coffee, and you do this for a few months, and every time you get a free coffee. Then one day, you go to the coffee shop with enough money for your sandwich and ask for a sandwich and coffee, but the server demands you pay for the coffee this time. That's frustrating because you don't have the cash to get both, so you either go without the coffee or plead with the server.
However, consider another coffee shop where you ask for a sandwich, and the server asks if you want a small coffee for a dollar. You decide you want the coffee, you buy them both. You're happy with the arrangement, and the former situation never comes up. You never have the opportunity to be frustrated with the server because she hasn't set any expectation she's not willing to maintain.
I still suspect it's a fictional or largely fictional piece though.
A greater truism can hardly have been spoken.
Fast forward to the eighties and "the business which feeds and clothes and houses them all" being acquired is a common event. Then the fat gets trimmed. The fat being you, the loyal employee whose work made the business acquire-worthy in the first place. Your loyalty being repaid is not in the books, the value you created is.
So, loyalty to the people is ok. The relationship with a business is governed by contracts and little more.
Agreed. In the 20s you took care of "the business" that takes care of you. Nowadays, you attend to "the career" that takes care of you.
Life expectancy of a 35 year old male in the 1920s was about 67, for a woman 68. It's about a decade more now. Source (expressed as years of survival): http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005140.html
And as I recall, promises of life-long employment hit a bit of a reef in the late 1920s.
That said, yes, we've exchanged greater life expectancy for much reduced employer loyalty.
Money has lead to health and prosperity for more, but the poor remain in the lot of our ancestors.
The first two are backwards. If you doubt me, think about what happens in a divorce.
Disclaimer, I've been married over 20 years and never divorced. My kids come first. I'm fairly sure that my wife puts our kids first as well.
It seems to me "your children come first" is the traditional expectation of modern, American society, but I think it's wrong. At least in my case, it led to me being very well treated and doted on within a tragic environment of my parents' relationship falling apart.
This NYTimes blog post  captures my feelings pretty well.
You are not prepared for the hormone storm that you'll experience the first time you hold your child.
For me, I wasn't sure I was ready. I said yes to having kids because my wife wanted kids. The moment I held my son for the first time, on the other hand, all my priorities shifted instantly.
Maybe you'll still hold on to the idea of putting your wife first, but you're not in any position to make decisions about it at this stage and expect them to hold firm.
Hormones control a substantial part of your life, no matter whether you like it or not, and they influence and control a large part of the decision you think you made rationally.
But even when we're together, the children are still on our minds.
When my kids are teenagers, perhaps my feelings will shift.
But right now my kids come first in my emotional life. I would die for them. I have compromised work for them. It wasn't even a question. I support my wife, but not as unconditionally as I support my children.
This does not mean that I do everything they want. This does not mean that I try to be their lives. I want them happy and healthy, and I do everything that I think is good for them. This is not the same as being their friends. Nor should it be.
Children not only need loving parents, i.e. parents who love THEM, but also ones who love each other, a couple a model. It's needed for them to want a family, it's needed so that they don't see having children as an obstacle in the way of their personal happiness.
So sometimes, it's beneficial to put the children second, beneficial from their point of view as well. But in general, I don't think there are too many situations when we have to think about who comes first (unless we marry an asshole :) ).
Disclaimer: Married 4 years, no kids, only speculating.
In a divorce, both relationships have failed. The base purpose of marriage is to procreate, not that it is necessary, but on some level we realize that this is truth in Western Civilization.
Kids want a stable, loving environment, and will learn about adult relationships by observing how their parents treat each other (as well as how they treat them). Being around a strong marriage is pretty much the best gift (as well as time) that you can give kids.
I always thought it was a mistake for my parents not to spend more time together outside of their parental roles, and even when I was a kid I could see these as seeds of later turmoil. So whilst this advice isn't directly for you, I'd advise any parents to make some time to enjoy together, away from their kids (so long as the kids are old enough to be looked after by others). Its not selfish if everyone wins.
Evolution does not care whether your children are happy and healthy. It cares that you have a bunch of them, and they have children in turn.
I am not very successful evolutionarily. Nor do I strive to be.
When every subgroup is fighting for itself we get... What we have today. Chaos.
Another example: You own apartments, and some poor immigrant student can't afford the rent in the city with his university. You lower the rent, because a happy PhD is worth more than $100/month. Yes, even if you don't know him and won't gain anything from it.
Another example: You're the personnel at that top university. You agree to be paid less than you deserve so more can afford the education.
Another example: You can get in Google because of a friend. But you know someone else more qualified wants the job too. You let him
have it. Because it is best for society that everyone gets the job he deserves, and that important jobs are done efficiently, instead of cheating for your own sake.
Another example: You know you can increase sales dramatically by using gamification and abusing psychology to get your users addicted to reward mechanisms. You don't do it, because it's best for society that clueless people don't waste their time/resources with bad MMOs and Farmville, despite the interests of your company.
Another example: You can get a lot of profit by hiding poor products under shiny overpriced cases, then throwing money at marketing. You don't do it because it's not in the interests of the people.
Another example: You don't use your marketing/SEO skills to sell a fancy software which already exists as a superior FOSS alternative. (Broken window fallacy)
Another example: Don't pull out the mote from your eye, but the beam in your neighbor's eye instead (no, I'm not religious)
Another example: You agree to pay taxes so that the sick and poor stop dying and starving on the street.
Final example: You can help people around you, but you're going to appear weak and it will hurt your social status... Oh terrible... You do it anyway.
Some of these examples are poor, but I could write a book about it, and the point is obvious, isn't it? Really I can't believe I have to argue about it.
Of course that's hopelessly idealist and unpractical. But only because everyone else is selfish and shortsighted in the first place. I'm just saying this is how it would work in a perfect world, and this is how Reason says we should strive to act. Optimization requires resources to go where they are needed most. If you disagree with this statement, use arguments, and good luck. "Me first", "my family first", "my company first", "my country first" is not good enough. It's chaos. All the evil in the world rests on these "good" intentions. People get slaughtered for the sake of others' families. Do it if you want, but don't downvote me then pretend it's the moral thing to do, when it's obviously not.
Anyway I'm done with this site, constantly obsessed with personal "success" to the point of biased and blind amorality...
A faithful portrayal of the modern world.
One of these days we will drop the ego, and the sooner the better.
> Daughter wants a iPhone, you want a new car. Some neighbor needs help to pay healthcare bills. You don't buy the shiny things, and help the neighbor instead.
Say your neighbour can't pay his healthcare bills because he was laid off for being drunk while on the job. His healthcare bills are the result of an altercation with his bookie, for gambling debts he couldn't pay. Is it worth encouraging his behaviour by supporting his healthcare bills?
> Another example: You own apartments, and some poor immigrant student can't afford the rent in the city with his university. You lower the rent, because a happy PhD is worth more than $100/month. Yes, even if you don't know him and won't gain anything from it.
The PhD student is living above his means by wanting an apartment in the city, when he could easily live a little further away for less rent. Is it good to spoil him, and give him the expectation that he can get anything without hard work?
> Another example: You're the personnel at that top university. You agree to be paid less than you deserve so more can afford the education.
The University notices your pay cut, so decides to cut the remaining staff's wages to be fair. They don't reduce the tuition fee for students but instead, hire more staff at the university with the cost savings.
I could go on with the rest of your examples but I guess the point I'm trying to make is you never know what everyone's backgrounds and motivations are.
I'm not saying don't help people out, but chose very carefully who you help out as most people aren't victims because of circumstance, but usually victims of their own doing.
I can't agree that's the case. Believing otherwise is simply convenient.
As a postscript, it seems to me that many people believe the myth that absolutely anyone can make it if you try hard enough - an extension of what's been sold to me as the American dream. Of course, the corollary of this, is that those who don't achieve are victims of their own laziness and lack of motivation.
I can't state strongly enough how untrue this is. Once upon a time it may have been true, but now — even those born within the same country — enter into the world on a vastly uneven playing field.
Someone who is born into poverty is quite simply likely to die in poverty. Some succeed against all odds — however luck often plays a strong part in a person's effort regardless of the amount of effort they put in.
To state that most people who are victims, are victims of their own doing, isn't true. Again, it's simply convenient to believe so, because it removes the need for altruism.
I would go further and say that it has never been true. It's a lie people who do well tell themselves, and everyone else, to feel better and justify a whole slew of unjust actions.
Sometimes people are also victims of their own actions, but does that mean we shouldn't help them? I don't think so.. we all mess up from time to time.
I was always amazed that anybody would spend 20 minutes answering questions asked by some random person for absolutely no reward. I still don't understand why. And our surveys had to be representative of the area demographics so it was not just all lonely, elderly people. It was people of all ages, race, etc.
I think people have learned to respect me so much they don't even invite me to parties or funerals anymore. Score!
Do you really not see the difference between these situations or are you just doing a reductio ad absurdum?
Some examples from my own life, a more modern context:
- acquaintances ask me to "fix their Internet" because I'm "good with computers": I point out I have other priorities and they're already paying the line provider/ISP so should call them for assistance
- similarly, people who ask me to fix their computers: I point out that they wouldn't expect a mechanic to fix their car for free, and besides IT != software development
- back in university when people asked me to help develop or debug portions of their solutions: if I couldn't figure it out in 15 minutes I told them I had other priorities but gave them general advice about what the problem or solution might be
- people asking me to work longer for the same amount of pay and unpredictable benefits (i.e. bonus formulas): I became a contractor instead and I've been immeasurably happier for it
You simply cannot consent to every request from such people - they will literally drain your life (i.e. time) from you, to what end?
I mean that you can do the same amount of work, and depending on how you present yourself, you can be seen as the accommodating doormat (and consequently, treated like shit) or the guy who can get things done (and be treated well, trusted with more important stuff, etc.)
The article is particularly referring to trivial tasks. The person who does trivial stuff, no matter how impressive their demeanor, is going to be known as the person to whom you take your trivial requests.
Not the person you take important work to.
Not the person you entrust with serious responsibilities.
Unless you have your own staff, to which you delegate the actual doing of trivial things, there's really no way to dress that up.
I do know of one guy who can get anything done by way of an impressive network of personal connections. But he is not afraid to refuse petty requests - because his time and favors are valuable. That is the distinction, I think.
I'll quite happily give up my time to make others happy, because doing so is its own reward. However, when that generosity is expected (people repeatedly asking for favours, etc...), that's when resentment starts to build.
So you see, for some people (myself included), I'm happy being 'nice' without expecting anything in return, but I'm not happy for that to be taken for granted.
Someone that cares about their own stuff, is confident etc, both provides an example to follow and implicitly projects a moral judgment that it's OK for others to live how they do.
Someone who hurts themself (question of degree here maybe) to be nice implicitly projects the moral judgment that others should do the same. People don't really want to be like that; being around the person makes them feel guilty, or perhaps they just don't want to appear disagreeable by not reciprocating; they avoid the person except insofar as they might actually want the help being given.
Unfortunately (especially so for people who honestly hate themselves and would never explicitly recommend that others emulate their own self-deprecating behaviour) that moral implication - that arises from the reflexive belief that everyone is in control of themselves and so ultimately wouldn't do anything they don't approve of - is not entirely avoidable, since it rests partly in the eye of the beholder.
The question is what would happen if the jock also helped the girl in the library? Would that make him more or less attractive because he had become attainable?
If being helpful gives you one point, being confident gives you a hundred. You can be a confident and a bit selfish (but not mean, or a jerk) and still be at around ninety-nine points, which is a lot.
I can't give many examples without the context, because they won't come through correctly and people will just think I'm being mean.
Not selfish: the main character in the book would give up everything for the woman he loved. I have no idea how much it overlaps with Ayn Rand. But taken as its own individual work, I consider it one of the most profound things I've ever read.
Pro tip: If you are sitting in a large gathering and someone asks you to help them out. At best, if you cannot say "No", what you should do is give them pointers. That's it, nothing more. Those who are motivated enough will take your pointers and handle it themselves, others will not.
I have found that people in general are just trying to get someone else to do their work for them, for free, without giving a thought to the other person's schedule.
I hope you detect the sarcasm.
Helping people at the expense of your wife, children and your employer is what the protagonist was discussing. He ultimately gave more in charity after his realization, except that he now controlled that charity, it didn't control him.
A better world when minimum wage laws exist in your country but people buy Walmart items manufactured in a country where those rules not apply, so you could actually feel better.
The maximum disparity between top and bottom was not in the 1920, it is now, with CEOs getting 50x the minimum pay of their workers and growing, and central banks printing money ad infinitum.
I agree with you helping people that actually could help theirselves, is overrated.
That is not correct. At the peak, in 2008 right before the depression, it was slightly below the peak in 1928/9 .
The writer was talking about saying no to being used and exploited by people who felt entitled to his time and effort and did not respect or appreciate that effort.
The physical act of helping earns you a reputation as a 'nice' person; however, I've found in my limited time that when people start trying to use me (getting a sense for this is a very useful thing to have, and something I had to learn the hard way after being used), I either need to (a) draw the line and say no, or more commonly, (b) help them in such a way that I force them to think or do something along with me. In my experience, plan (a) happens strictly only after you've done plan (b) before.
By just doing everything for others and magically making things happen, you allow people to trample on you; but by teaching them exactly what you're doing, you (1) demonstrate that you really know what you're doing, (2) practice your understanding of the thing it is you are doing, and (3) place on them the expectation that they won't come back for trivial help. I only resort to plan (a) if, after doing plan (b) a few times, they still attempt to use you. Teach a man to fish...
In case you're wondering who, Agassiz, the scientist mentioned in the article was, I thnk that this is probably him:
“You are thirty-five years old,” I said to myself. “More than half of your life has already been spent."
Edit: Not sure why this would be down-voted. It's a quote from the King James Bible with a source reference that supports the notion that 70 years is about all the time we as humans have to live life in good health. It is relevant to the article as it lines-up with the 35 years old, "half of my life" claim as well. People do live longer than that, but quality of life and good health tend to go down a lot in the 70s.
The only difference I see is that people pretend 45-50 is when "mid-life" happens. No, you're not going to live to be 100.
35-37 is mid-life. Accept it.
Go out of your way to help someone, its almost dead certain you will be treated like a doormat next time. You will always be expected to keep doing things for free. Its a given.
No person should ever be helped unless he is totally incapable of helping himself.
Hmm. 1807 – 1873, Swiss paleontologist, ended at Harvard, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Agassiz . Plus, Ezra Pound's take, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_sunfish
How do you turn an acquaintance that you occasionally do favors for to a good friend? Well, you get the favors back in other ways. To put it in nicer words, you give them chance to help you back. That's how relationships grow.
"Read the life of a great scientist like Agassiz. Was he forever at the world’s beck and call? Not for a single day. To letters inviting him to write, or to lecture for money, he replied that he had no time for those things."
The message seems to be more about using your time the way you want to use your time, and not the way others want you to use it. Want to work 20 hours a day? No problem - the author would encourage that as you're using the days you have as best you can to get where you want. Want to work 4 hours a day and spend the rest of the time with your family? Author encourages that too as long as you're providing them what they need.
Basically: it's your time, not someone else's time to decide what you do with it.
Thanks for sharing this, OP.
Being accommodating lowers your social status but makes you well-liked. The end result of this is that people waste your time because they get away with treating it as having less value than theirs. But the default mode of most people is insecurity so, when the chips are down, they go with the high-status guy (the rival druggist who was not accommodating but prospered).
Respect, not popularity, is key. I spent many years of my life doing obnoxious, ridiculous things on the basis that it was better to be hated than ignored. I was completely wrong. Being hated or disliked is undesirable, if you can help it. Being ignored is fine. Being liked but not respected turns you into one of those whiny "but I'm such a nice guy" types, so it's the worst of all outcomes. Being liked and respected is what you want, but to get that, you have to accept the fact that some people will ignore or dislike you.
The reason it is better, in most cases, to be ignored than disliked is that it takes less effort. The same goes with being liked but not respected-- lots of effort. You should expend effort only for people who respect you. That's a chance to show true loyalty, not subservience. Subordinate people can never be really loyal, because power relationships always evolve and, when they do, their colors will change. So you only gain anything by doing someone a favor if you're already from a position of equality.
People often mistake my role as tech support, which means anything from changing toner cartridges to setting up their presentation equipment. They often just turn up in my office with another "emergency" and I'm supposed to drop everything and run off to help them. I have learned to issue a flat "no" when this happens unless they let me know well in advance that I will be needed. They are often furious but I'm thick-skinned enough not to care: at least I have some control over the situation if I play it this way. My boss supports me so that helps.
"You should expend effort only for people who respect you" is something I've learned the hard way and it really does work. I keep pushing back until they learn that (even if I annoy them) my time is not worthless, and if they treat it as such I will not help them. Actually, I usually end up feeling quite good about this way of working.
There's a threshold effect, though. The key is to help everyone, such that basically everything you do is for someone else. Word spreads around that you're someone who gets things done and makes problems go away, which makes even more people come to you with their problems. Eventually, you get to the point where you can say honestly "I'm sorry, I don't have time to help you because I have to help so-and-so first." When that happens, your niceness and your social status rise: you're viewed as a nice person because you're always helping people, and you're viewed as a powerful person because you don't have time to help them.
Keep this up and a curious thing happens: the requests for aid diminish because everyone assumes you'll just be too busy, and yet when you do help someone out, they're super-appreciative. This gives you both time and resources to accomplish your own goals, and people are happy to help you out both because you've done favors for them in the past and because their own social status rises by being involved in your projects.
Its not true always. Help is not always reciprocal.
The key is to help people such that your interests are not getting sacrificed in the process.
I try not to keep score when helping people, because I've found it's just more effort than it's worth. Folks who're a net negative soon start to feel like a net negative, so I just trust my gut judgments about people.
When I was working in a computer shop one of my trick was to clearly state what was going to happen or to lay down the options that they had. That would often help them feel in control and calm down. Obviously before I had to wait for them to calm down enough to be able to listen.
I keep reminding myself that these are otherwise highly intelligent people who have insecurities about technology. Part of the "pushing back" is about encouraging them to do it themselves.
A trick I learned from a one-time co-worker was to listen attentively and repeat the words "I understand" and "yes, I understand" until they calm down and I can say something more meaningful. Keep reassuring them you're listening and their problem is valid. Works like a charm.
I struggle with that on the sidewalk. I tend to move out of the way to let people pass, because it seems more elegant to me, and often I am fitter than the approaching person. Should I really be bulldozing onwards just to assert my status?
What about the gift economy, where the people giving the most gifts has the highest status (examples: open source, science, feasts in archaic societies).
-Bob buys Ed a copy of Boating Skills and Seamanship because he knows Ed likes boats
-Ed asks Bob to buy him a copy of Boating Skills and Seamanship and Bob obliges
In case 1, Bob is taking a high-status action without lowering Ed's status. In case 2, Ed is taking a high-status action but lowering Bob's status.
"As he was rising from obscurity in Philadelphia and wanted the approval of some important man, Franklin would often maneuver that man into doing Franklin some unimportant favor, like lending Franklin a book. Thereafter, the man would admire and trust Franklin more because a nonadmired and nontrusted Franklin would be inconsistent with the appraisal implicit in lending Franklin the book."
I love it when I can save someone 4 hours with a few minutes of effort. It feels great and triggers "warm fuzzies." That's why posting on sites like Stack Overflow or Quora is so addictive. But if someone asks me to spend two hours on something that would take them the same amount of time, it feels more like an obligation.
No. You can study this for years and still be mystified. I don't think anyone has figured all of it out.
Can it not also sometimes raise status to be accommodating, because it shows you can afford it?
Generosity is different from being accommodating. You have to have a mission and purpose and not let it slide for trivialities. Generosity means you help people out, but on your terms. You do things for them because it is genuinely good for them. Accommodating means you drop your own needs and wants to do their chores. Doing someone else's low-yield work does not (in general) make you attractive. Of course, there are exceptions.
Should I really be bulldozing onwards just to assert my status?
No. That would be an extremely low-status move. "Asserting" high status by being a dick means you don't have it.
What about the gift economy, where the people giving the most gifts has the highest status (examples: open source, science, feasts in archaic societies)
Again, that's generosity.
Power translates to respect, warmth translates to being liked, and presence translates to making people feel that you are "there" when you talk to them.
These 3 types of charisma are orthogonal. That's why you can find powerful jackasses, wimpy "nice guys", or people who are both powerful and well-liked.
As a visualization, you could think of this as a cube, with the directions representing power, presence, and warmth. One corner would be (0,0,0) and the opposite would be (10,10,10).
For some fun reading on the etymology of and history of the word/concept orthogonal, see http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=orthogonal&allo... and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthogonal
Oh. To me that explains a lot about your public Google drama.