Real talk: How to get more in relationships

Couple enjoying dinner

I once heard someone say: “Heaven is when you have an American salary, a German car and a Pakistani wife who cooks Chinese food. Hell is when you have a Pakistani salary, drive a Chinese car, and have an American wife who cooks German food.”

Now these countries are generally among the best in one thing and among the worst in another. This is generally true for most other countries, most people and most things. The Chinese call this concept Yin-Yang. In other words, everything and everyone has a bright side and a dark side. We know this about ourselves; and we know this about other people.

yin yang

Since we know our strengths and weaknesses most times, we use these as bargaining chips. If you observe carefully, we usually try to find someone who most closely matches our value reached by self-assessment. Let me unpack that statement, when we seek a partner, we offer as much as we have.  For example, good looks, an interesting personality, a sense of humour and expect something in return like financial stability, a sense of safety and comfort, and so on. Every time you see a really good looking girl with a guy who looks like the lead performer of the ugly circus, you know that he had something she values and the reverse is also true.

It works very much like any other bargain, you put on the table everything you have and look to see what the other person has to offer. Sometimes, we wind up trading off an attribute for another, but usually likes attract.

Why the unsolicited elementary psychology class? Well, because if we understand this simple fundamental of human behaviour, we can begin to look and see what we have been trading off. We can evaluate and see what we received was a fair bargain or not.

This reminds me of a persistent Bible character, Jacob, later known as Israel.  Let me bring you up to speed if the Bible is not your cup of tea. Jacob was working for his uncle Laban. He fancied his cousin Rachel, so he struck a bargain with Laban to work for him seven years and in return, he would marry Rachel. Talk about dedication. So he worked seven years, and at the end of the seven years his uncle tricked him and gave him Leah instead of Rachael. He must have been really wasted. Leah was Rachel’s less desirable older sister. And so they agreed if he wanted Rachel, he would have to work another seven years – dang! She must have been really good-looking.

Later in their life, it is said, Rachael caused Jacob nothing but trouble; whilst Leah on the other hand, knew she couldn’t compete in the looks department, did what she could do best – she bore Jacob children, many of them.  Leah knew at the end of it, children had the greatest value. Most Jews today remember her as the mother to the most tribes of Israel.

Since we now know people look to us for our strengths and that our strengths are the currency by which we perform social transactions; the first thing you should do is take stock of your inventory – identify your strengths, and work on them. That way, you have more currency and more bargaining power.

Capital Group’s chairman Dr. DJ CK in a recent interview with FamilyTv’s CEO said something profound. He said, “There’s nothing quite like success, when you succeed in one area many other options open up for you.” Now you’ll amazingly realise that when you work on your strengths, you will also discover many others. And the more you have, the easier it is to acquire others. The more strengths you have, the more attractive you are. It’s actually that simple.

The other thing is to make sure you don’t sell yourself short. If you work hard on your strengths, you know just how much they’re worth. Make sure you get the top price in a bargain. Make sure you don’t settle for less. Failure to do so is exactly why the “perfect” girl winds up with a complete (insert preferred word of contempt here).

The rule of negotiation is generally applicable to most aspects of life, not just relationships. If you work on your strengths people will notice them. If you work really hard, people will bid for them. If you are really good at one skill, it’s easier to pick up the next one because you’re more confident of your abilities and have the comfort of knowing you have a strength to fall back on, which allows you to try a new one with less pressure.

Success is contagious.

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