Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Don't Be Evil: A Case For Enlightened Self-Interest

Since publishing Robinson's letter last week at HUS, a firestorm of sorts has erupted in the Comments section. The hotly debated issue is nothing new: What are the ethical considerations a man should observe when seducing women? I've written plenty in the past about players, jerks, douchebags and practitioners of what some call Dark Game. Mostly I've seen my role as one of warning women about the tactics that these men use, and also admonishing women that there's no such thing as "don't ask, don't tell" in relationships. If you don't ask, and he doesn't lie, it's on you.

Still, I've commented from time to time on behavior that I've found especially exploitative and repellent, even when the woman participates by allowing herself to be treated poorly. Examples include:

  • Physical violence
  • Lying
  • Cheating
  • Inconsistent sending of signals in an LTR, i.e. push-pull, that leave a woman uncertain and anxious about your affection
  • Using insults to demean a woman's appearance in the guise of "playful teasing"
I've gotten a fair amount of pushback over time on this from many of the guys. Men who I respect and feel great fondness for argue with some force that chicks dig jerks, so it makes sense to comply. Others have said that with all the terrible experiences that good guys have had at the hands of callous women, it's only fair that some women should suffer too.

Women do terrible things to guys as well:
  • Lying
  • Cheating
  • Nuclear rejections, with gratuitous cruelty
  • Taking advantage of men by getting them to spend money
  • LJBF with insensitivity, while continuing to milk a friend for attention and affirmation
  • Rewarding the worst character traits in men, while rejecting guys for being too "nice"

I've been giving this a great deal of thought, and have realized that regardless of where I draw the line on what's OK and what's not, that's my personal boundary. Yours may be different, and that's a question that each one of us has to wrestle with. I'm sure there are behaviors in these lists that all would agree are heinous, and others where there would be very little agreement, especially between the sexes.

So I've decided to approach this another way, through the lens of self-development, which is really what HUS is about, and also what Game is about. Each of us must decide, with total commitment, how we will interact with and respond to others. We will be imperfect, but we should have a considered philosophy about this. Ultimately, you answer to yourself, and to those whose lives you touch.

This question is as old as mankind itself. The Golden Rule was first documented in ancient Egypt, 2040 BCE. Hippocrates wrote an oath for students of medicine that included the promise to "do no harm." And today Google's unofficial corporate motto is "Don't Be Evil," conceived at a time when the company felt that its competitors were exploiting users to maximize short-term profits.

Yesterday while waiting for my car to be serviced, I finally starting reading Stuart Diamond's book Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World. I heard him speak a month ago about the book, which is based on his very popular course at Wharton. Reading, I was immediately struck by how applicable the principles were to the SMP, especially in light of the current discussion.

After all, mating is a series of transactions, a meeting of the supply and demand curves at the micro level. A woman who has consensual sex has made a deal, even if it's with the devil. Each party negotiates the terms of any encounter, and is solely responsible for his or her terms and subsequent agreement.

Diamond's approach is the first innovation in negotiation strategy since win-win in the 90s. He believes that approach leaves too much on the table, and that focusing on making an emotional connection between the parties increases the size of the pie, resulting in both parties getting more of what they want. Self-interest is not objectionable, it's natural - the key is finding a balance between the two parties.

Diamond on What Negotiation Is:

"Done right, there is no difference between negotiation, persuasion, communication, or selling. They should all have the same process. That is, they should start with goals, focus on people, and be situational."

The Process, in order of preference:

Terrible: Forcing people to do what you will them to do.

A bit better: Getting people to think what you want them to think.

Still better: Getting people to perceive what you want them to perceive.

Best, and self-enforcing: Getting people to feel what you want them to feel.

Diamond on Goals:

"You negotiate to meet your goals. Everything else is subservient to that. The goals are what you are trying to accomplish. Don't try to establish a relationship unless it brings you closer to your goals.

The point of negotiation is to get what you want. Why should you negotiate to create a relationship if it won't help you meet your goals? Why should you try for a win-win if others [try to hurt you]?

Don't get distracted and clouded with other stuff - being nice, being tough, being emotional, etc. Never take your eyes off the goal. It's what you have at the end of the process that you don't have now."

Diamond on Power:

"Getting More is not a manifesto to gain power over people in order to force your will on them...First, the minute you use raw power over someone the relationship is usually over. People don't want relationships with those who try to force them to do things against their will. Second, it sends the wrong message - one of tension, struggle and conflict. This is less profitable because people use their energy to defend themselves instead of building something. Third, the raw use of power prompts retribution, whether now or later."

"The use of power in negotiation is fraught with risk. Seeing a negotiation in terms of gaining power over the other side sets up a conflict situation. If they perceive you as trying to grab power over them, they may well have an emotional response - as in "I don't care if I undermine the negotiation, I'm going to get even with you.

I can't say it enough: [Power] should be used selectively and constructively so that extreme reactions are not provoked. You should be sensitive to the needs of everyone along the way."

"If they have a lot more raw power than you do, they can beat you up. In such a case, you should ask them, just because they can beat you up, should they?...If you can beat up employees, will they work less hard for you?"

Diamond on Framing:

"Framing will often change the balance of power in a negotiation, no matter how big or powerful the other party. It should be used carefully and in a positive way...You don't have to accept the other person's standards and framing. A big part of framing is "reframing." You start with how they phrase something, and then you find a different way to interpret it, so that they get insight - and hopefully will meet your goals.

It is much more persuasive to let others make the decision, instead of telling them what the decision should be. You want to lead them where you want them to go, through framing and by being incremental."

Diamond on Trust:

"Trust is a major people issue. The benefits of trust are huge: faster deals, more deals, bigger results. Not having it is costly...Trust is the feeling of security that the other person will protect you. With some trust, another person will help you until it's too risky for them or a better opportunity comes along. With a lot of trust, the other party will help you even if it harms them. It is very important to understand the trust dynamic.

The major component of trust is honesty - being straight with people. Trust does not mean that both sides agree with each other, or are always pleasant to each other. It does mean, however, that the parties believe each other.

The opposite of course, is dishonesty, or lying...That includes telling the truth in such a way that you omit facts and create a false impression. It can be clever manipulation of emotions. It can be the distorting of information or bluffing. It's anything that doesn't pass the smell test."

There's nothing wrong with self-interest, or with putting your needs first. Diamond is no touchy-feely romantic. He's a pragmatist who gets results.

He has laid out a very strong argument for self-interest enlightened with emotional intelligence in relationship with the other person. It's better than win/win - it's get more/get more.


Markku said...

I don't think this is applicable. Game contains the claim that women react with unintuitive ways to certain things in the sexual dynamic. For example, with disrespect to security and with sexual arousal to unsecurity.

It is precisely the Gamma position -- and it makes perfect sense although it turns out to be inaccurate -- that a sexual relationship is like a business deal. That's what you'd expect it to be like, until you notice it isn't. The Gamma thinks, quite reasonably, "I'm perhaps not the most handsome or the richest guy, but I'll make up for it by giving my woman that much more attention, apologize when I think there's even a CHANCE I was wrong and always remember to buy her flowers and gifts."

This would be a good strategy in a business deal. If your product is of lesser quality than your competition, add extra value to the deal. Deltas eventually learn that it doesn't work that way, whereas Gammas keep on banging their heads against the wall until they're too old to have sex anyway.

Markku said...

A Gamma is like Chernobyl. He might accidentally function in a relationship for a while, but when the first problems come, he responds in the exact wrong direction, providing a positive feedback loop for his own meltdown.

Whereas the alpha responds in the right direction, with push-pull for example, and prevents the disaster.

rycamor said...

This would be a good strategy in a business deal. If your product is of lesser quality than your competition, add extra value to the deal. Deltas eventually learn that it doesn't work that way

Actually, it does work that way; it's just a question of exactly what the extra value is. A man who is short or not so good-looking brings extra value by being that much more of a hardass, cockier, funnier, etc... than the next guy (In fact I suspect that's why the cockiest alpha males tend to be short guys).

In reading over Roissy's blog and a few others, I honestly didn't find the claims of Game to be that unintuitive (although sometimes the amplitude was more extreme than I expected). I've seen many of the same dynamics work out even between men (or boys, when I was a kid). A man doesn't like a clingy friend any more than a woman likes a clingy man. A man doesn't like a friend who's always playing up to him as if he's the better/stronger/smarter, or someone who apologizes too much. Alpha males learn to accept such play-ups, but a man who does that too much will be kept firmly in the LJBA (let's just be acquaintances) category. Ever notice that alpha male buddies neg each other constantly?

You could distill 99% of Game down to Woody Allen's line: “I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” It's very similar to the whole social class phenomenon. Almost everyone wants to be perceived as just a little classier than they are, and would rather "friend up" than friend down, unless the friend in a lower social class has some sort of glamorous appeal, such as being a working-class writer, or a badass adventurer with a ton of cool stories.

Point being, none of these things is absolute, nor one-way, otherwise no one would ever find a new friend, because that friend would either be higher or lower value somehow and thus one side would not consider the other worthy. Instead, what happens is each perceives a value in the other that he doesn't have, but as in the case of social class, the farther apart you are in class, the harder it is to bridge the gap.

Back to relationships, an unattractive man can bring enough extra value to hook an attractive women, but he had better work hard to keep his perceived value. Sometimes a higher-value man will choose a woman who is a point or two down from his ideal, because she has a provocative personality, or extra bubbly femininity (but, she had better work hard to keep that personality, as well as not slip another point or two down in looks).

So back to Susan's lists of negative traits. The difference in the two lists is that the each of the male traits is the 'dark side' of a positive trait women like to see in men. Maybe they don't like physical violence, but they like to know the man is capable of it. Maybe they don't like outright lying, but they never want to hear the full truth about his anxieties or insecurities. Even dedicated wives who don't want their husband to cheat still react positively to the when some other woman finds him attractive. Teasing? Absolutely necessary in a marriage or LTR. Push-pull? Maybe not to the degree of the pick-up artists, but when a husband always plays the same card, I guarantee she gets bored or dismissive.

On the other hand, the female list has no positive counterparts, except perhaps that men react somewhat positively if other men find their mate attractive, but it is nowhere near as big a deal with us. Women bring a different set of values to the table than men do, and that is what needs to be realized to see this as a business thing. For example, we men really don't mind if our women are a bit clingy, even needy. We honestly don't mind if they want to touch us 10 times a day and always tell us how big and strong we are. That's just how we are wired. As in business, each side makes grave mistakes when it imputes its' own values and preferences to the other side.

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