Value and availability are two key concepts of social skills.
Yes, they are a bit more theoretical, but you still need a solid grasp on them to learn and understand social dynamics.
In The Rule of Social Exchange we explained social dynamics can be seen as a big exchange.
In a nutshell, the Rule of Social Exchange postulates that the more value you have, the more you can get.
But it’s not always that straightforward. And there’s a caveat. The caveat is: how available is that value.
- Value & Availability: The Theory
- The Value & Availability Matrix
- Availability Influences Value
- Maximizing Your Results
- Availability in Dating
Value & Availability: The Theory
Imagine the height of the bars represent their values, with value being the total sum of whatever people appreciate (looks, money, intelligence etc.).
In a digital world free of psychology, both Amber and Coffe would want Black.
And Black could easily get friendship, romance or at least a warm welcome by both Amber and Coffe.
But in the real world it’s not as straightforward. People only want to enter a meaningful social exchange if they believe that your value is available to them.
That’s the concept of perceived value availability.
For the record, making your value availability means “welcoming people into your world”.
That goes goes from a relationship, to a friendship to a friendly chat (to a night of passion too).
They are all demonstrations of appreciation.
Let’s now explore value and availability with an example.
Imagine Amber (bar A) is out at an event and wants to talk to someone.
But Amber will likely not go for Black because the difference with Black (bar B) is too big. Amber thinks it’s likely Black will reject her because Black is “too good”.
That’s a typical case of self rejection. Self rejection happens when we feel someone might reject us and we reject them first.
People who self-reject take themselves out of the running, often unconsciously, without even trying.
This is either to protect our ego, which doesn’t help us, or to protect our social standing, which could make sense in case of a public rejection.
Self Rejection Types
Self rejection can take the following forms
- Ignoring someone
- Being in awe and too nervous to speak to someone
- Disliking someone (even without possibly knowing them)
- Being rude to someone (we feel hurt, they make us not feel good enough, so we hurt them back)
Self Rejection Persistence
Now, what if Black were to approach Amber?
Well, Amber might be elated (and nervous at the same time).
But she might not take him seriously, wondering if he’s toying with her.
It’s also possible though that Amber will be rude or shut Black down. Afraid of being eventually hurt or let down by Black, she does the rejection first.
Self rejections tend to be final, so one must always strive to prevent them:
Fixing Availability Issues
If Black wanted to have a deeper interaction with Amber he should make her feel comfortable that he accepts and respects her.
And, if he likes her romantically, that he likes and is attracted to her.
Black could either come down to her level -for example with humbleness, deprecation or vulnerability- or, even better, raise Amber to his level -getting to know her, appreciating her etc.-
The General Rule
People don’t end up with the best value they can get. They end up with the best available value they feel they can get.
From even before the approach people will always be gauging how valuable the other person is and how available he is.
During the interaction people use the following signals to gauge availability:
- Effort (to keep conversation going for example)
- Interest in the other
- Physical distance
- No effort (let the conversation die for example)
- No interest (no questions, looking away etc.)
On the extreme end, unavailable signs become repulsion instead of no attraction. Then it’s aggression, disgust etc.
The Value & Availability Matrix
To make the Value and Availability concept clearer, let’s project it onto a matrix:
Low Value / Low Availability
People in this box aren’t even on the map in either the social or dating world.
They have no quality or skills worth of notice and are unfriendly and socially clueless.
Low Value / High Attainability
On the extreme side in this box, imagine fangirls screaming “pick me, pick me” under a singer’s stage: super available and low value because there’s a hundred of them.
On a more day to day basis, these are people with little going on in their life. They’re always free for you and are the most likely to chase you.
High Value / Low Attainability
These are the people we call haughty, pompous and full of themselves.
Low attainability can make the people around jealous and resentful. That’s one of the reasons why celebs have so many “haters”.
High Value / High Availability
These are people who are high value and welcoming. They make the people around feel accepted and high value as well.
Bill Clinton is a great example:
Availability Influences Value
Value is also influenced by the availability of the value itself.
Indeed, psychologically, we are programmed to use availability as a shortcut for value. If something is abundant, we find it less valuable.
If on the other hand something is scarce, our brain tells us that it must be valuable and we want it more (also see Cialdini).
Hence, it is possible to make our value go up by faking scarcity.
A famous experiment (effects of supply and demand) found out scarcity increases perceived value in the following order:
- What’s scarce
- What has become scarce
- What has become scarce because of social demand
Maximizing Your Results
To maximize your results, you should increase your value and find the sweetspot for availability.
Increasing Your Value
Increasing your value should be the core of your efforts.
And it means you become a better person and get more of what other people value.
Maximizing Your Availability
The availability sweetspot is this:
- Attainable enough so that people don’t self reject
- Scarce enough that you’re still a challenge.
The availability sweetspot It’s usually less relevant in social settings and friendships -where it’s best to add value to each other-.
It’s a bit less relevant in good and established relationships -where it’s best to add value to each other-.
But it’s very relevant in the beginning of dating:
Availability in Dating
The idea of being scarce to be more attractive is an old one.
Virtually all female dating advice center around being scarce to make him chase.
It works in principle.
But has several drawbacks, most notably:
- You risk the target will stop pursuing (self-rejection)
- It’s a game everyone plays: more available singles can steal your lunch
Let’s not go into that now but let’s have an overview on availability:
Being a Challenge: The A/V Sweet-spot
Imagine your availability as a peephole to your value.
If what people see is good (your value) and if it’s visible enough (your attainability), then it’s exciting and people will want to get it.
If people can’t see any light at the end of that peephole (zero attainability), you’re too hard to get and they won’t pursue you because they don’t think they have a shot (except of stalkers of course).
Gauging Your A/V Sweetspot
Since value is always relative and people’s confidence in their abilities to get your value will always vary, you need to adjust your availability depending on people and situations.
The rule of thumb is:
Bitterness / Rudeness
When people are bitter and combative towards you, they might be self-rejecting. Be less of a challenge.
Lukewarm / Unresponsive
When people are not interested in they’ll be rather nice as they don’t want to hurt your feelings. But they will not want to meet you or move with you.
If that’s the case, you should be more of a challenge.
Super High Value / High Availability
Ideally, the best of the best is to be so great as to wow someone upon approach (super high value and at risk of self-rejection).
And then proceed to make yourself more attainable by taking the edge off of yourself with humility and self-deprecation.
Or even better: build him/her up to your level so that he/she feels he has a shot with you.
On a social scale, this is exactly what Clinton was doing.
Self-Rejection To Make Them Chase
As a last note, I wanted to show you a high-level use of self rejection.
When someone is being a bit out of order, you can choose to ignore, tell them that’s not cool or… You can self reject.
If they like you, that will get them chasing.
See a perfect example here:
Did you spot the guy’s (fake) self-rejection? It’s rather easy, at minute 2:07.
Your social value, what you have to offer, is key in doing well socially (and romantically).
However, people will often judge your social value depending on how available it is for them. If they think you don’t wanna share it (talk to them, sleep with them, be friends etc.), they will avoid you.
To make friends, make your social value easy to access -ie.: be approachable and welcoming-.
Romantically, make your value available enough they feel they can get it but not so available they think you’re too easy.