I recently watched a Youtube video with a rather clickbaity title – Stop Being A Nice Guy Or You Will Regret It. The content turned out to be more interesting than what the title suggests. There’s a line in it which I thought was interesting: “Don’t invest in someone based on how much you like them, invest based on how much they invest in you”.
I found it interesting because I always thought that you should treat others how you want to be treated. And I want to be treated as if I am a unique individual with complex thoughts and emotions, so that’s how I organize my behaviors towards people. This is particularly true for romantic prospects. But the advice given in the video seems to suggest that you should only treat others nicely to the extent that they’re willing to give you the same treatment.
But after thinking about it a bit, I realized that the advice doesn’t really go against my original thinking. I can incorporate them in a complementary manner. You should definitely start off treating people as they come into your life how you want to be treated. But as you gradually come to know them personally, you should start treating them based on how much mutual investment are present in the relationship.
There is an internal hierarchy that we use to guide us in our treatment towards others. We give special treatments to those who’s in a higher position in our personal hierarchy, and more generic treatments to those who’s in a lower position. It has less to to do with people’s intrinsic qualities, and more to do with how they align with our current value structures.
Initially, it may be hard for us to find a place for a new person in our hierarchy, but you have to put them in a place anyway so that you can choose what behaviors to manifest in the relationship. I am biased towards placing them in a position that’s a bit high, and then gradually adjust as necessary. Gradual adjustments should be made based on careful considerations of various factors (whether they’re someone you feel comfortable with, do they lie, do feel remorse and reflect upon their actions, etc). But an important factor is how they treat you. If you don’t consider the way that they treat you, then you are perceiving your relative position in their personal hierarchy accurately. Put it in a rather extreme way, you’re delusional about where you stand in the relationship.
If such a misconception is prolonged, it would inevitably lead to disappointments as you keep investing but the reciprocation, if there’s any, is never as you expect. Our expectations can only be reasonable if we have a reasonable perception about a particular situation or relationship.
Therefore, invest in a relationship based on how much the other person invests.