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Saturday, July 04, 2009

BECAUSE I CAN: Why Givers Don’t Always Gain and Why the “Law” of Reciprocity is Bullsh!t

Because I Can with Adam J. Kovitz

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”

- Henry Winkler

Last month I introduced the concept of “Insani-FREE”, the assumption that many people (I’m sure you’re not one of them) make about the concept of “FREE”, and how this leads to the “death”* of many a business/professional relationship. Nothing sucks more than being the person on the giving end of a relationship who has to deal with a taker who:

  1. Doesn’t understand the value of what you’re offering
  2. Takes without showing appreciation, or
  3. Takes without giving back.

But Adam…what about “Giver’s gain”, “the Golden Rule”, “the Law of Reciprocity”, or even “The Tenth Law of Relationship Capital”?

Shouldn’t we get back everything we give away? In fact, shouldn’t we get back more that what we give?

The answer to the last two questions are unequivocally, “yes”, provided:

  1. You live in a vacuum
  2. You live in Fantasy Land, or
  3. You happen to be really, really lucky.

For the rest of us ordinary folks who have to put up with reality, why do some people give and give of themselves to others and not get back what they feel they rightfully deserve?

To this I answer, “Because we have obviously made some wrong assumptions here”. Let’s take a look at these assumptions more closely and even use the commonly-accepted Laws of the Known Universe – I love using Newtonian Physics - to explain what is really happening here.


Because I can…

Don’t Be Such a Drag

How often have you dealt with those who cannot appreciate you for who you are and what you do? We have often referred to such people as “drags”, “energy vampires” or in the corporate world we say that they’re not good “team-players”. Have you ever stopped to really think about why we say such things?

Let’s to that now…

The Law of Conservation of Energy is appropriate here. It states that:

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

Or put into more formulaic terms:

Ein = Eout

What this means is that if I put energy into a system (a relationship is one such example of a system), I should get the same amount of energy out.

So when we put a lot of energy into a relationship with someone who is a “drag”, “energy vampire” or not a good “team player”, we should get the same amount back out of it…correct?


So why is it that it feels like there is less energy there such that we often end up being “disenfranchised”, “disappointed”, “disenchanted” and/or just “dissed”?

Because the energy that comes back to you is, indeed, diminished, leading you to feel that your energy was wasted.


Because any physical system, be it mechanical, hydrodynamic, thermodynamic, electrical, chemical, financial or even relational all suffer from energy loss in the form of friction, drag, resistance, etc., so our original equation can be rewritten:

Egiven = Etaken + Elost

So when we look at the so-called “Law” of Reciprocity and make the wrongful assumption that we will get back everything we put in to a relationship all the time, we do not take into account “Relational Resistance” – the individual G-d-given free will that the other party in the relationship possesses that will either make magic or lead to disappointment.

I am hoping that by now you are beginning to see that we can analyze organizational/team/network effectiveness much in the same way aeronautical engineers design a new aircraft or the controller/CFO determines the financial stability of a corporation? It doesn’t matter the application – the same formula holds true.

From an aeronautical engineering perspective, Egiven relates to the energy value of fuel needed for an aircraft to work according to design specifications, Etaken is the thrust or speed of the aircraft and Elost is the drag and the weight of the aircraft.

From a financial perspective, Egiven can relate to revenue, Etaken is the profit and Elost is the loss due to expenses.

Resistance is Futile

So if we can perform such analysis on aircraft, finance, hydroelectric dams, plus a myriad of other systems, why don’t we do it with human relational systems?


Resistance to what?

The idea that it can’t be done. I’ve heard arguments that it’s impossible to quantify or valuate the energy people put into such relational systems.

My counter-argument to this is that we can value such things by the means of our own perceptional perspectives – after all, it is said that “perception is reality”. I have outlined such a valuation in my article: Relationship Capital in the Workplace, in which I suggest a simple rating system of -10 to 10.

Similar systems are already being used to rate vendors on eBay, books on and elsewhere.

Even if we can all agree to such a perceptive rating system, there is still the challenge of data collection how often must we way in on our perceptive value of every person in our network so we can track the ebb and flow of Relationship Capital?

This would certainly require some time and effort of research, our current world of high-speed internet and hand held mobile devices and social media should provide an acceptable forum.

And the benefits of such analysis would be considerable. With it we could:

  1. Identify root cause of inefficiencies of an organization down to an individual
  2. Identify true key performers for job placement/promotion
  3. Promote accountability within any organization at all levels
  4. Promote “social graces” through quantitative means
  5. Measure effectiveness and impact of training/coaching initiatives within an organization
  6. Determine how changes in specific messaging by management to employees improve or increase organizational effectiveness
  7. Determine how changes in specific messaging to the public increases demand for products or services, or brand awareness
  8. Develop a quantitative means of measuring human decency and performance
  9. Developing a better “good will” calculation for valuating a company
  10. Develop a “truer” economic system that is less subject to corruption
  11. Better understand key moments in history and why they happened
  12. Forecast future organizational health based upon known history and statistical modeling.

Time to Change Assumptions

Whether we want to mathematically model what’s going on when we deal in human relationships or not, we can at the very least work to take the path of least resistance in our own dealings by looking at minimizing Relational Resistance and its cause.

How will we do this?

By making better assumptions! From now on, we will assume that:

  1. We will get more out of every relationship and will be less disappointed if we at least acknowledge that there is some quantity of Relational Resistance in every relationship
  2. Relational Resistance exists on both sides of the relationship
  3. We must take ownership of our own Relational Resistance and work, with the help of the other person in the relationship to minimize it
  4. We must take responsibility to honestly and effectively communicate the means by which our partner in the relationship can reduce their own Relational Resistance.

Why will we make these assumptions?

Because we can.

Until next month…

* I use the term “death” here in quotes because relationships, like Relationship Capital (RC) can never be destroyed – see my article on the Fifth Law of Relationship Capital.

Adam J. Kovitz is the Chairman & Founder of The National Networker Group of Companies, which publish The National Networker (TNNW), provide member services and consulting as well as branding and social media domination.

For more about Adam J. Kovitz, please click here.

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The Emergence of the Relationship Economy

Relationship Capital is the cornerstone of the Relationship Economy, which RNIA defines as “a measurement assigned to individual and organizational entities based on the relationship interactions between them, and the interactions they have internally.” I am proud to have contributed discussion of the Ten Laws of Relationships Capital to The Emergence of the Relationship Economy, now out as an eBook and in hardcopy. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is being considered a “must read” for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy of The Emergence of the Relationship Economy, please click here.

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Ann Barczay Sloan said...

Adam -- I love it when you talk thermodynamics & aeronautics! Seriously, though, I'm super-curious to see how these manyfold qualitative aspects of human interrelations can ever be expressed in quantitative terms. Guess I'll stay tuned!

Barry Mapp said...

You talk about Newtonian Physics as being the commonly-accepted Laws of the Known Universe and to use it to explain relationships. However surely Newtonian Physics only exists in the artificial closed system and last time I looked relationships were open systems. However I will accept we can often get new insights by playing around with 'models' about how things work

Shel Horowitz, author, Principled Profit said...

Well, of course, the bovious solution is not to put a lot of energy into vampires. I find that When I give of myself with people of quality, the returns come back to me many times over. But you're right--if you play with vampires, you can expect to get bitten.

Shel Horowitz, award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing that Puts People First and seven other books

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The Emergence of The Relationship Economy

The Emergence of The Relationship Economy
The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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