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Friendship: keep the power

Hello guys,

as you know my challenges in terms of social intelligence are now in the friendship realms. I am currently part of a group with whom we do board games. I also went hiking.

Situation 1: 1 piece of cheese and 2 baby tomatoes

My friend with whom I went hiking told me we were going to go to a restaurant at the hiking spot. He also bought some food. For me there was no point in bringing food as we were going to go to the restaurant. However the restaurant was full. At the top I let go of my ego and said that he had a good idea to bring food. So I ate a piece of cheese and two baby tomatoes. The problem is that during a board game that I organized at a friend's place he said during an in-game negotiation: "Remember when you were starving at the top of the mountain". So in public he:

  1. Told everyone I had a debt towards him.
  2. Overblew the value of about 100g of food.
  3. Misrepresented the event as him saving me whereas he fucked up the restaurant thing as it was full.

I was pissed off but I did not find a good defence at the time: I said: "it's true that I never gave you anything".

What would you do? 

I'm considering:

  1. Sending him a text saying: "I did not know that a piece of cheese and 2 baby tomato would cost me so much".
  2. Not do anything but never give him a reason to have power over me and reminding him subtly next time he's giving me something: "You're going to remind me and my whole family all my life that you gave me a baby tomato?"
  3. Call him and tell him what I think
  4. Tell him next time I see him.

So he's counting what he's giving me which I think is shit in a friendship. I think I provide tons of value so I think it was not fair for him: to take note of such a small thing (I would never make a mental note of such a small thing) and to climb socially with this. If I would have known he would use it 3 weeks later against me in a social setting I would have refused the food.

Situation 2:  pay the taxi

Yesterday while coming back from the board games night where we had a lot of fun, I could not take Uber because I did not register my new credit card yet. So I asked my other friend N. if he could use his uber to take a taxi.A regular taxi stopped but he wanted me to draw cash which I found weird. I could have walked 5 min longer and take a regular taxi. He insisted that we waited and the Uber came and I thanked him. Everything's good! For some context he was surprised that I found this cool group of friends in so little time ("You know them since how long?") because when he met me I was still struggling with my social circle.  This morning I admit I had forgotten the Uber thing. He asked me to send him the money online which I did right away. And he said: "thank you big boy" or the equivalent in french: "merci mon grand" which had subtle undertone of dominance and which I did not hear from him previously. I answered in kind: "thanks to you big boy! :)"

So twice I made the mistake to use the value I given them for petty things. I did not know they would make such a fuss of 1 piece of cheese and two baby tomatoes and 11 euros of uber.

So I was a bit surprised about the reaction of these two guys. That they insisted to get back the small value the given me. Note that I invited the second friend to the night and he could have a lot of fun and meet a group of cool guys. That I organized a game. I'm not talking from my ego. However, I think I provide way above average value and I was surprised that they cared about these small things.

I do think that people in our societies take count of the material value given more than the immaterial value. However I think it's so stupid as the immaterial value is way more valuable. Trust, information, connection and all the emotional aspects of relationships (support, listening) are way more valuable than a couple of food items or a money bill of 10 euros.

So I make a mental note of this experience. If I need to ask help for moving my stuff or something like this I'll be careful to choose people to whom I can ask this service. For instance the friend I helped to move his stuff. It's important not to get in debt with some people because their internal value system might overblow the value they gave you and undervalue the value you gave them. Lucio already talked about this: they will minimize their debt and maximize yours, even if only to themselves.

So all the social intelligence I learned at work applies: who's in charge, who's not, adding value, etc. However I think in friendship it's good to keep other people indebted to you rather than the opposite. So that would be the endpoint of this post:

Avoid social debt at all costs, create debts in others but don't cash in!

That means: keep giving as much value to others while taking as little as possible. That includes: asking for advice and support.

Some people don't count what they give as soon as there is some trust and that's the kind of people I'm surrounding more and more. Generous people. I'll set the example in the group.

What do you think?

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Matthew WhitewoodDM

Social scalping is annoying.
Especially if they bring it up in another context as leverage like in the in-game negotiation.
It's indirectly saying that I am making you incur debt so I can leverage this debt against you in a future situation when I like.

The techniques under the "The Covert Power Moves (& How to Handle Them)" could be applied:

  1. Neutralising the "giver/taker frame"
  2. Putting the blame on him

Neutralising the "giver/taker frame"

Him: Remember when you were starving at the top of the mountain

You: If you were starving, I would have given you food as well. (Neutralising) After all, we are friends. (Telling everyone that friends do not need to remind each other of favours)

Putting the blame on him

Him: Remember when you were starving at the top of the mountain

You: Someone brought me to a full restaurant. We had to hike up the mountains starving. Thank god, you brought some food with us.

Social Capital - Debts and Credits

Avoid social debt at all costs, create debts in others but don't cash in!

The main people to avoid social debt are with social scalpers and value-taking people.
They may use it as a form of manipulation.

Pro-social individuals may not enjoy having too much social debt with you.
They may feel disempowered relative to you in terms of social capital.
They would like to give back in some ways in the relationship.

Social scalpers often leave a bad taste in the mouth where you feel more guarded against incurring debt by accepting or asking for favours.

Building Social Circle and Making Friends

Always challenging.

Would there be people that you enjoy hanging out with within this circle?
It could be possible to form your own mini-circle from this circle.
And invite your other friends that you get along with.

How challenging is it in your city Lausanne to go out alone and make friends?
Maybe the logistics of the city makes it hard to make new friends.

We could open another thread on this topic.

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Maxim LevinskySerena Irina

Hey man Matthew,

thanks a lot, this is Lucio-level kind of advice and formatting. I’m glad we agree! That’s exactly what he’s doing.

Your two options are the right ones I believe  neutralizing + collaborative reframing or blaming/shaming him. BTW he never owned that he fucked up the planning. I would have. Anyway.

Your advice to extract my own mini-social circle is a great idea. It will take some time but I will be steering in this direction. Thanks!

Socially, Lausanne is VERY challenging. It’s a town even though it’s very well developed. Local people stick to their group of friends from childhood. All the people in the story above are French expats. The expats are the people who are looking for friends AND are often more open minded than local people as they have broader perspectives.

You made me realize that it is key to keep expanding one’s social circle. The good thing is that now I have a base which I did not have before. I can say that I have at least five friends of high-quality which was my goal for 2020.

So yes I’ll be mining the expats groups. Also the women have the potential to be hotter (Slavic, Scandinavian).

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Yeah, Matthew is a beast.

And I've noticed an astounding development in him over time.

Funny how in the other thread I used "starving" as an example of social scalping and public one-up. I hadn't yet seen this thread and I said that as an exaggerated example of a social scalper. Turns out, it wasn't exaggerated at all, just reality :).

Some quick notes:

  1. Sending him a text saying: "I did not know that a piece of cheese and 2 baby tomato would cost me so much". <- no, you descend to his level, devolves into game-playing nad a race to who stoops lover
  2. Not do anything but never give him a reason to have power over me and reminding him subtly next time he's giving me something: "You're going to remind me and my whole family all my life that you gave me a baby tomato?"<- I like this one. A good-humored, socially smart way of reminding him that it's really uncool and low-value behavior. Only issue is that it might not stop the game playing, but end up encouraging more of them. Good for acquaintances and one-upping, but maybe not ideal in this case
  3. Call him and tell him what I think <- if you think he can take it without souring the relationship, it's an option
  4. Tell him next time I see him. <- even better than the one above

I agree with you here, I'd have felt the same way.

This case is special since he used that instance as a negotiation chip, as well as a one-upping power move.

But besides this specific case, one important thing to notice is that some people have a different attitude towards monetary transactions, and they both give back promptly, as well as asking promptly.

It's also an important cultural difference, with some cultures having an attitude towards friendship that is more about "please take some of my stuff and forget about it", and some other cultures being more about "take, but please make sure you give back".

If you fail to give back in the latter cultures, or with people with that mindset, then you become a taker, in their frame of reference.

This does not necessarily say anything negative about the friendship, since these people/cultures tend to separate the friendship from the material transactions.

That being said, I'd personally advise folks to move away from that attitude, no matter their culture.
It's a falsehood that you can keep relationships and material exchanges separated. And it's too easy to make people feel bad, or to come across like a stingy bean-counter -as a matter of fact, I'd call this attitude "bean-counting" attitude-.

So yeah, I think that providing the example, as well the expectations of a more open attitude towards sharing is a great idea.
And it might be part of that values-package that will more easily carry you to the leadership.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Yeah, Matthew is a beast.

And I've noticed an astounding development in him over time.

No one graduates from Power University without astounding developments.  : )

Cultural Differences in Social Credit/Debit and Viewing Favours

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on November 29, 2020, 8:30 pm

It's also an important cultural difference, with some cultures having an attitude towards friendship that is more about "please take some of my stuff and forget about it", and some other cultures being more about "take, but please make sure you give back".

In certain cities of China, this is especially true.
The concept of guanxi builds upon favours and social debt/credit.
It is important to not accept favours if you know you cannot repay them in the future.

From Wikipedia, Guanxi in a Business Context from Wikipedia

The nature of guanxi, however, can also form the basis of patron–client relations. As a result, it creates challenges for businesses whose members are obligated to repay favors to members of other businesses when they cannot sufficiently do so. In following these obligations, businesses may also be forced to act in ways detrimental to their future, and start to over-rely on each other. Members within a business may also start to more frequently discuss information that all members knew prior, rather than try and discuss information only known by select members. If the ties fail between two businesses within an overall network built through guanxi, the other ties comprising the overall network have a chance of failing as well.[7] A guanxi network may also violate bureaucratic norms, leading to corporate corruption.[9]

In Asian societies, family ties carry social obligations as well.
As such expectations to contribute financially or help out with family matters.
There is a mental note of who is up or down in social credit.

Business Relationships

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on November 29, 2020, 8:30 pm

It's a falsehood that you can keep relationships and material exchanges separated.

I find this to be true even for business-like relationships.
For longer-term partnerships and clients, it is better to count score to a lesser degree.

For example, doing certain favours for free builds the relationship.
But you do have to set boundaries and be assertive to not let the other party take advantage of your generosity as in any relationship.

If a favour is too out of the way, a good friend would probably decline a favour in a polite manner rather than doing the favour and counting score towards the friendship.

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Lucio Buffalmanonaathh12@gmail.com

The main people to avoid social debt are with social scalpers and value-taking people.
They may use it as a form of manipulation.

Pro-social individuals may not enjoy having too much social debt with you.
They may feel disempowered relative to you in terms of social capital.
They would like to give back in some ways in the relationship.

Social scalpers often leave a bad taste in the mouth where you feel more guarded against incurring debt by accepting or asking for favours.

Going back to this. I think you made a great distinction here. I somehow knew that my statement to "always create social debt" was a blanket statement. I also like how you differentiate how pro-social individuals deal with debt. Pro-social individuals don't mind giving but don't want to feel like they owe somebody too much.

A nice anecdote regarding Lucio's concept of giving neutral value in a work environment: coffee. Coffee at work is like cigarettes in prison. It's a currency of good will. You don't trade knowledge or contacts but it's a neutral currency. If you offer coffee to your colleague he won't be able to get ahead of you. Even when I paid back my debt and more (by giving back more coffee capsules than she gave me), she still tried to tell me that I was "welcome to take some if I wanted to" (never again, you social scalper). She also took some sugar and plastic spoons to say: "we have our own stuff now" which reeked of manipulation. So thanks but no thanks, your free coffee is too expensive for me. Context: she want to become an oncologist so she is on the prowl and wants to look good to the bosses at any cost. I might follow this career path, but not by kissing up. While talking about it, I'm suspecting she might have tried to make me look bad when I was not around. I had an opportunity to make her look bad but I did not: I'm the kind of person who supports and protects his colleagues.

@Lucio: thank you very much for your detailed answer. I'm going to rebound on this in the thread "Friendship and Leadership".

It's a falsehood that you can keep relationships and material exchanges separated.

Very important concept. I think it would fit nicely in the "law of social exchange in PU". That's what I meant in the other thread: when you answer our questions, it's an opportunity to enrich PU or any other material.

If a favour is too out of the way, a good friend would probably decline a favour in a polite manner rather than doing the favour and counting score towards the friendship.

Important concept as well: not accepting costly/unfair social exchanges as the risk to unbalance the relationship is too big.

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Lucio Buffalmano

Some great, great stuff here.

Quote from John Freeman on November 29, 2020, 10:38 am

A nice anecdote regarding Lucio's concept of giving neutral value in a work environment: coffee. Coffee at work is like cigarettes in prison. It's a currency of good will. You don't trade knowledge or contacts but it's a neutral currency. If you offer coffee to your colleague he won't be able to get ahead of you.

Great example, will add this to the article / lesson on (pro-social) Machiavellianism.

And by the way, I totally see your point of adding some of these forum nuggets of wisdom to PU.
I often do link out from PU to the forum for more info, either as hyperlink/credit, or as a more explicit "read here for more".

And it's super helpful when someone tells me "this should be in PU". I don't always know what should count as "foundational", so having you or anyone else tell me "this is crucial info" adds a lot of value. You've done it many times, thank you for that!

Quote from Matthew Whitewood on November 29, 2020, 3:32 pm

If a favour is too out of the way, a good friend would probably decline a favour in a polite manner rather than doing the favour and counting score towards the friendship.

You mean "rather than taking the favor"?

Anyway, a great way for recognizing collaborators: they don't feel good being too much in debt (VS takers who are more than happy to keep unbalanced relationships).

Added to the lesson on social exchanges and credited you.

Makes me think a section / post on "how to behave and recognize value-adders / collaborators / people who make for good friendships" might be a good idea, too.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Quote from Matthew Whitewood on November 29, 2020, 3:32 pm

If a favour is too out of the way, a good friend would probably decline a favour in a polite manner rather than doing the favour and counting score towards the friendship.

I realised that this statement is ambiguous and could be interpreted in 2 ways.
But both ways are good for evaluating collaborators.

Asking A Friend For A Difficult Favour

If you ask your friend for a favour that is out of the way, a good friend would probably decline to do the favour in a polite manner.
Rather than accepting to do the favour and counting this as social credit.

Assertive friends make better friends in general.
Submissive friends make do the favour and feel like they have no choice.
Then they feel like they have done you a favour and may grow a bit resentful.
Submissive people may end up using social scalping in the future because they don't know how to get their way assertively.

Doing A Difficult Favour For A Friend

If you intend to help out your friend on a favour that is out of the way, a good friend would also probably decline to accept the favour in a polite manner.
Rather than accepting the favour and getting social debt.
Assertive friends would respect your offer, but, at the same time, do not want you to go out of your way to help them.

Recognising Value-Adders

Makes me think a section / post on "how to behave and recognize value-adders / collaborators / people who make for good friendships" might be a good idea, too.

Very generous for the credit.

Maybe it could be under the social exchange section.
Structuring a course like Power University does seem challenging.

There are signs of value-adders, just like how there are signs of value-takers.

Got it, now I understand.

Great stuff here:

Matthew: If you ask your friend for a favor that is out of the way, a good friend would probably decline to do the favor in a polite manner rather than accepting to do the favour and counting this as social credit. Assertive friends make better friends in general. Submissive friends make do the favour and feel like they have no choice. Then they feel like they have done you a favor and may grow a bit resentful. Submissive people may end up using social scalping in the future because they don't know how to get their way assertively.

Great point, well said!

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Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Agreed with you, Lucio, I love your thinking Matthew. Spot on!

Here is a key advice to keep the power in friendships. If you cook, cook at your place or make sure that everybody is cooking together!

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