Social Value and Value Imbalances
Value's a frequent subject of the articles on this site - we talk about ways to increase your passive value and value and attraction a great deal, while reducing "active value" (trying to talk up your value - if you have to say it, it isn't true), and we also talk about screening women carefully to avoid bringing someone into your life who's going to be a value drain.
Your value to other people - social value - is highly subjective by person, but it's something very worth being attuned to. Value assessments are a crucial part to our daily lives - every person you meet, greet, or so much as lay eyes on you do a quick value assessment of, and likewise everyone who speaks with, interacts with, or gazes upon you, for even the briefest of instants, does a quick value check on you as well.
When we interact with someone else is where these assessments really come into play, and where value imbalances raise their ugly heads - and make things really interesting, from a "what do you want from me, and what do I want from you" point of view.
A value imbalance is a funny thing.
People will get all kinds of funny when they feel like their social value is being insulted or rejected. People are very sensitive to this... for good reason. If your social value is taken down a notch, or utterly spurned, too publicly or too obviously or too impolitely, the following repercussions can be very real:
You necessarily take a self-esteem hit from being told you're not as socially valuable as someone else (whom you most likely value socially), and
You risk having others see this spurning and mentally downgrade their own assessments of your social value, leading you into a downward spiral of less and less social opportunity
But wait, hold up a second - what's all this "social value" nonsense we're talking about? Is that the same thing as "social status"?
Or is it something different?
Social Value: A Definition
Social value is what you subjectively have to offer to another person. I'm defining this pretty broadly here, and rolling up a raft of different kinds of value into the mix, including:
- Socializing value (your value as a friend)
- Sexual value (your value as a mate)
- Romantic value (your value as a romantic partner)
- Emotional value (your value as an emotional support)
- Economic value (your value as a business partner, employer, or
- Alliance value (your value as an ally in some pursuit)
... and other types of value. For the sake of this article, all these kinds of value and others like them fall into the broad net of "social value."
The way we're defining and using it, social value is, in other words, what you have to offer other people, in their eyes.
The subjectivity of value is very important - we've discussed it on Girls Chase before, but it's worth a review here to emphasize for this piece.
How subjective is value? Completely subjective.
One woman who thinks you make the most ideal, dreamy short-term sex partner she could possibly get, and who'd chase you down as long as it took to get you in bed. And another woman who thinks you make the most horrifying idea of a sex partner she could possibly have, and who wouldn't sleep with you to save her life.
One woman who thinks you are the perfect long-term romantic partner - warts and all. She loves every imperfection you've got, and wouldn't take you any other way. And another woman who thinks you fall so far short of what she wants in a long-term candidate that it's laughable you'd even put yourself up for that role.
One man who thinks of you as brilliant and knowledgeable about business, and comes to you incessantly for business advice. Another man who thinks you're a regular neophyte in the world of business, and wonders if you have any chance of surviving in the dog-eat-dog world of moneymaking.
On individual who'd love nothing more than to have you as his friend, and take part in your adventures and explorations and expeditions... and another man who thinks you'd be nothing but an anchor, weighing him down and holding him back.
Who's right? Who's wrong?
Well, while it's possible any one of these characters may have misjudged you based on a poor presentation put forth by you, chances are, their judgments are probably pretty accurate based on where you are, where they are, what they want, and what they think you can and will provide.
One person thinks you can rocket her forward; another thinks you'll be a ball-and-chain clasped around her ankle... and for each of these people, they may be right.
Likewise, you look at one person, and judge her as having a great deal to offer you... while you look at someone else, and see any time spent with her as a waste of time.
Where value imbalances come in are when two parties are interacting, and one party sees the other party as providing much value to him or her, while the second party does not feel the same way about the first party - thus leading to a classic imbalance of value.
Value's an incredibly emotional topic for people. Just look at the comments section of the article "Should You Pay for a Date?"... all those people, arguing over a simple value trade.
The upset women think that the average man should pay for their time, because in order to grace a man with their appearance and consideration at dinner, that is what they demand - payment for their meal.
Meanwhile, the upset men think that this is hogwash - their presence should be payment enough; the feel insulted that a woman would dare to suggest that they alone are not enough, and should provide some other incentive for a woman to join them on the date.
Both parties bristle at the insult to their perceived values; the women, that they are being told their presences at dinner are not worth the price of a meal, and the men, that they are being told their presences at dinner are not alone enough to justify women's presences at dinner, and must be supplemented by picking up the tab (in fact, the original article made no judgment whatsoever about who's worth what amount relatively to whomever else; it simply said that, in my experience, women sleep with and get into relationships with you a whole lot more often when you don't pay for their food - no assessing of who's valued however much to whom any which way or what).
It goes a lot deeper than that, however.
Witness the upset of a man who realizes the truth about a "just friends" relationship - he's been providing a woman with all of his time, emotional support, and conversation, and he's gotten NOTHING for that, and almost certainly never WILL get anything for it! It's a pure value drain - and not in his favor. Women who maintain these sorts of one-sided relationships, meanwhile, get upset at the suggestion that a man might want something from them - I thought he just wanted to be friends! goes the emotion; you mean he WANTED something from me?! What a creep!! But these friendships are rarely two-ways - the woman doesn't help the man with his problems, or provide a shoulder for him to cry on, or come running at his beck and call; he's there to provide emotional validation and support for her, and what he gets in return is the hope that maybe, someday, he might have a shot with her.
The belief of the women who become upset at men getting upset at this arrangement is that a shot with them should be more than enough compensation for his time spent... it's not like the guy exactly has women knocking down his door, anyway.
And in some ways, these women are right - the guy's seen fit to trade his time, energy, and emotion for a shot at "maybe... someday", which shows pretty clear he's not getting a whole lot of "right now" in his life, and probably doesn't have a whole lot of other women competing for his time and devotion.
Value imbalances become REALLY clear once you get involved in running your own business; the more prominent your business becomes, the more you get people trying to get value from you, often with questionable value to offer in return, all the while trying to act as if they are doing you a favor by courting your investment of time, energy, or money.
I was recently contacted by a producer from one of the largest news websites on the Internet, saying they'd read one of the articles on this site and thought I could contribute a lot to a video roundtable they were holding 24 hours later, and could I join? I apologized, and said sorry, not enough lead time for me, and I'm having a bit of trouble with video on my machine right now anyway; they quickly wrote back in a rather condescending tone saying it was too bad, because they really thought I had a lot to offer, and couldn't I try to fix the issues on my end and check in with them and they'd check the video?
I ended up not seeing this email until after they'd aired the episode, which I watched - only the briefest of mentions of each of the speakers on the roundtable and what his or her business was. In this 30 minute roundtable, the host asked each of the participants to reflect on the topic of an article published on the new agency's site - an article, I saw when I looked it up, that was a watered-down version of an article I'd published on this site, put up on their site several weeks after I'd published it here. No wonder they'd wanted my opinion... who better to weigh in on your piece than the person you got the idea from?
I thought about that - here's this new organization, scraping, watering down, and sensationalizing content, then asking people to comment on it in a video interview, while giving only the briefest of mentions about the presenters themselves or their organizations - it was clearly set up to get people who'd sign on for an interview hoping for their 15 minutes of fame alone, without actually providing anything back that would drive viewers to check out those individuals programs or websites... a classic value imbalance, but masked under an air of providing value: "Come be on our show - we're XYZ huge news organization!"
There are tons and tons of other value imbalances you'll run into like this in business - employees who screw you over, then act upset when you dock their pay and give them the can; people who want to offer you their services, but you have to decline in as nice a way as possible because they just don't make the cut; individuals who want to form alliances with you, that are almost certainly going to be go-nowhere projects where you do all the work and provide all the money, clout, development, and support, and they're the genius with the "idea" - the same idea everybody else has.
Likewise, there are many things YOU want to do in business that the people you might want to do them with simply aren't interested in doing them with you. I'd love to get more REAL press, for instance - but Girls Chase isn't a business the press wants to talk about, aside from controversial news stories or as a stand-in for the "evil bad man", which I have no interest in being a part of. Outside of hiring a full-time publicist, instead of doing some part-time publicity, which we do from time-to-time, this isn't really all that feasible.
You'll find these all over the place with making friends; people who will chase you for friendships often aren't the kinds of people you want to be friends with, and you may find yourself wanting to be friends with people who don't pay you much mind.
And, of course, back to dating - the kinds of women who throw themselves at you, especially when you're starting out, can sometimes not be the sort of women you want much to do with, while the women you DO want much to do with give you the blind eye.
All these are value imbalances - the people you don't want to associate with < you < the people you do want to associate with, when value is imbalanced... and nobody's value in any given arena is ever perfectly balanced with the value of those they court for whatever it is they're courting them for.
There's always an imbalance.
The question is, how good are you at DETECTING these imbalances in social value... and how good are you at CORRECTING them?
Because your aptitude at detecting and correcting social value imbalances really does make a world of difference in both avoiding those who will waste your time... and in being of sufficient service to those whose time you want a piece of.
I used to know a guy who would ask, "How can I be of service in your life right now?"
I always thought that the presentation of this was all wrong - people don't know you, and they don't know how they can use you, usually... they need you to tell (or show) them how you can be of service - but the idea was right.
Growing up, my motto was always, "Show people why they want to have you around." I always figured, there are enough people out there trying to talk their way into getting other people to have them around and be part of their lives - why not skip all that scrambling and convincing and cajoling, and just go be so goddamn good that people can't help but WANT you in their lives?
Work Ethic'ing Your Way to Social Value
There are really two (2) different approaches to how you view your responsibility to generate value:
- The entitlement mentality
- The work ethic mentality
The entitlement mentality is what you see when people get upset that their value offerings are being rejected. They believe that, based on flawed mental models, whatever they believe is valuable should be OBJECTIVELY valuable to EVERYONE.
This is not really their fault... for one reason or another, they've never learned how extremely subjective value is, and how what you view as really, really valuable someone else may not view as valuable at all. It's very frustrating to live in a world where you are doing or providing something you THINK is really valuable, only to have other people treat your value offerings like trash.
The other mentality - the work ethic mentality - is where it's at for really generating the kinds of results you want in your life from your labors.
The question the individual with a work ethic mentality asks himself is, "What is it that other people want from me, and what do I need to provide to them in order to achieve my objectives?"
These two mentalities lead to very different outcomes with people. Those with entitlement mentalities can sometimes get good short-term results running off of pure confidence and expectation - they believe they're owed something, and other people around them can pick up on this and think they must be people with a lot to offer and so are gracious and generous with them and receptive to their offerings and requests. However, as people become more acquainted with them, and begin to realize that what they actually offer doesn't stand up to scrutiny, these people have difficulty, and frequently feel betrayed - I provided so much time, so much effort, SO MUCH VALUE to this other person, and now she's acting like I'm NOTHING!
A common example is the "really good guy" who gets into a relationship with a woman and gives her anything and everything she asks for, or the nice guy who inhabits a woman's friend zone, taking care of her emotions, and consoling her, and advising her. Both of these men can end up feeling deeply betrayed, because they gave women everything that they thought and believed those women really wanted, and indeed, what those women may have even said they wanted with their words... and those women still didn't value them for whatever those men wanted to be valued for.
Leading to a value imbalance: their social value was not what the woman required from a man to take him on as a partner she'd be loyal to, or a partner in the first place.
But how about with the work ethic mentality? The man with a work ethic mentality knows that:
Most people have no CONSCIOUS idea what they really want, and often even consciously think they want one thing (and tell everyone that one thing is what they want), while in fact pursuing something else entirely with their actions
People will run toward and chase after those whose value they subjectively rate as high and desirable, and they will avoid those whose value they subjectively rate as low and undesirable. Those who provide some useful value, but are overall not especially valuable, people may keep cordoned off into special roles in their lives - e.g., the man a woman is "just friends" with
The more varied and different kinds of ways you can build up your own social value, the more access to higher value people you will have, the more likely they are to chase after relationships with you, and the more easily you will retain and grow those relationships
The more valuable a person you make yourself (what we talked about in "Just Be Yourself: The Worst Dating Advice Known to Man"), the more universally desired you become to the great masses of the Earth.
This takes time, effort, focus, and a dedication to improving yourself in ways that other people value.
You could spend years becoming amazing at knife throwing, for instance, but that's a very niche skill and it's not likely to increase your social value a great deal (unless you manage to knife-throw some guy who's running away stealing a baby and you save the day... that's about the only scenario I can think of in which knife throwing makes you awesome in most people's eyes).
Conversely, you could spend years becoming amazing at public speaking, and now everywhere you go you'll speak loudly, confidently, commandingly, and with a certain magnetic appeal that it's hard to put a finger on, but everyone knows you've got. That is a social value boost.
Is it needy or weak to care about what other people think? No, of course not. Everything you do is based on what other people think... especially if you're the type of person who says, "I don't care what ANYBODY thinks!" and announces it for all to hear... so that all can stand there and say, "Wow, how independent and strong this man is; he needs no one!" and you get to stand around and beam your smile of confident independence.
The savvy man recognizes this, and spends the lot of his time improving on improving those skills that will make him more valuable to other people - and thus, better able to get the things he most wants in life.
Detecting and Resolving Value Imbalances
A value imbalance is easy enough to detect: just ask yourself "Do I really want to spend time with this person?"
If the answer is, "Honestly... I'd rather play video games / watch a movie / go work out / sleep a little later," it's a situation where social value is imbalanced toward you, and this other person is not providing enough value to you to pique your interest (sometimes, it can also be the activity you're thinking of doing... but if you always feel this way about a given person, or feel very strongly toward that person, it's a value imbalance) - e.g., my reaction to that media producer was, "Do I really want to do this?" despite the fact that I'd like more (good) press and that she worked so hard to appear higher value
If the answer is, "Yes, I'd do ANYTHING with this person... in fact, I feel nervous just thinking about it!" it's a situation where there's probably a value imbalance tilted toward the other person involved; he or she is, in this instance, more socially valuable than you are, and you're worried you may not have enough to offer to match that value. An example of this is a girl you really dig that you've probably been chasing after too hard for too long... the imbalance here is unfavorable to you
If the answer isn't a bad-feeling "not really" or a nervous and uncertain "yes, of COURSE!", then there likely isn't much or any of a value imbalance, and you're roughly evenly matched in terms of social value
So, three situations here:
Value imbalance in your favor (your social value is higher; the other party's is lower)
Value imbalance not in your favor (your social value is lower; the other party's is higher)
Value is roughly about even / no glaring value imbalance
Obviously, the third scenario requires no resolving.
However, the first and second do... and from entirely different angles.
In the first scenario, the other person is the problem. Either you need to get her providing more value to your life... or you need to get her out of your life.
In the second scenario, you are the problem. Either you need to find a way to provide more value to this other person, or you need to upgrade yourself some more before you're really on a level playing field.
The general steps to follow when you realize there's a value imbalance and this other person is asking for more than she offers to your life is:
To require that things be done increasingly on your terms. An easy example is a girl you've spent some time on, going on dates, or being a friend to, who is making no effort to move things forward with you, deflecting your attempts to, and continually trying to rotate you into doing more "friends" stuff... which is not something you're interested in with this particular girl. So, instead, you start declining these proposals, and counter-proposing that she meet you somewhere very close to your place; or that she meet you in your place, and the two of you hang out there and watch a movie. She'll either decline (the value she gets from you is not enough for her to move ahead with you on your terms) or she'll accept (she likes you enough that she decides that moving things forward with you romantically is acceptable for her to do in order to continue having more time with you).
To make very clear that you don't want to do what's being asked of you. When there's a value imbalance, both sides are generally aware of this, but the person who's imbalanced against is usually going to try to deny this and/or prevent you from realizing it. The best way around it? State outright that you don't want to do the things you're being asked to do that provide no value to you. Say a friend invites you to go bowling, but you find bowling really boring and uninteresting, and this friend is not so amazing that you'll go do something you dislike JUST to be in his presence. So you simply say, "Hey man, thanks for the invite, but bowling's just not my thing - a bit too slow-paced for me. Let's catch up another time!" The friend will either propose something else next time, be more receptive to YOUR proposals, or the friendship will eventually dissolve and drift away.
The second step above is really just an extension of the first; again, this individual is saying, "No, sorry, that's not my thing; we can do things more on MY terms next time, though."
And then the other person is either going to say "okay", or she's going to say "no."
Depending on how valuable (or not) this other person is to you, your counterproposals will either be somewhat between what you and she like to do ("Let's meet at this cool coffee shop"), or totally on your terms ("Let's just hang out at my pad and dim the lights and watch a movie"). The more she likes you and sees you as someone with social value that she can access to make her life better romantically, sexually, or in any other important way, the happier she'll be to do things on your terms.
Now, how about when YOU'RE the one with the value problem? What do you do when a value imbalance is decidedly not in your favor?
There are a couple of things you can do:
Try to find out what the other person wants, and how you can better provide this. This means picking her brain to elicit her values, and
it means paying attention to what she does with her actions to see what she likes and responds to best. You can also simply ask her, "What are the biggest things you're dealing with in your life right now?" and then look to emotionally improve her outlook on these things (this can be anything from encouragement to advice)... though be wary not to overprovide good feelings.
Do your best to emulate the kind of person she is and the kind of people she likes. The better you know people, the more easily you'll be able to quickly read what kinds of people you're dealing with, and what kinds of people they'll best respond to, and bend yourself into that. For more on this, see the articles on being a great conversationalist and on Social Styles.
- If you can't bridge the gap, take time off, upgrade yourself, then come back later. At several points in time in my life, I've met people who were simply too high value for me at the time - there was a lot they had on offer that I'd love having in my life, but I didn't have anything much to offer them that they'd value a whole heck of a lot, and I knew I'd end up being a social burden quite quickly. In these cases, I decided to NOT interact too much with the person, and let him form an opinion of me in his head as "that annoying guy" or "that guy who wastes my time", but rather drop of the individual's radar for a while, improve myself in several important areas, and then move back onto that person's radar again and begin building up a friendship or alliance with him once I knew we were on more even footing.
What you absolutely must not do, and what most people end up doing that's all kinds of wrong, is chase and supplicate. No one respects those who chase after them too hard (persistence is okay), and people normally detest those who kiss up and supplicate to them (some genuine compliments and props where props are do are fine; brown-nosing and mindless ass-kissing is off-putting).
If you absolutely can't bridge the value gap, take time off, go upgrade yourself, and come back later when you're more ready to offer value in the neighborhood of what this person is looking for.
A Touchy Topic
People always get very emotional over the subject of value; how can someone suggest I'm not good enough for his time or attention? someone with an entitlement mentality will ask, hurt and offended.
The truth is, there are all kinds of different forms of value, and they vary widely in utility from person to person.
If you have a set of six-pack abs, for instance, you're going to have very high value to a girl with a thing for surfers and muscle dudes. You're probably not going to be all that impressive to someone who's looking to hire an IT programmer if those abs are all you've got, though.
And you may have impressive amounts of ambition and drive, and that's going to be really arousing to a similarly ambitious woman, and really weird and unnecessary to a woman who's goal in life is to live in a small, quiet home, with a strong, silent man with a couple of kids and a dog and a little white picket fence.
Different strokes for different folks, goes the saying - and if you want to correct some of those value imbalances - where you want someone's time and attention but he or she doesn't really want to give it to you, or someone else wants your time and attention but you don't really want to give it to her - you've either got to figure out what this other person wants and become it... or, if the value imbalance is in your favor, you've got to tell her what she needs to do to be what you need her to be.
If you can do that, value imbalances will cease vexing you, and
you'll find yourself able to attract exactly the kinds of people into
your life you want to attract.
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