You know what’s the problem with non zero sum games? Situations, scenarios where collaboration leads to a higher net value than being in an adversorial situation.
The problem is that everyone must play by the rules. The system is at the mercy of the person who wants to cheat.
Take it this way.
I invite you and another person to a coffee shop. I put on the table $100. The money can be yours but you need to find a way to divide it between the two of you. If you can’t reach an agreement, I’m going to take Mr. Benjamin Franklin back. However, if you can find an agreement, whatever that may be, you get to keep the money.
In an ideal non zero sum game, you simply divide it by $50 you and $50 the other person. It is free money after all. Everyone wins. The ratio of cost benefit would be exactly 1:1.
However, in real life, this rarely happens. This experiment has been conducted thousands of times across universities around the world and you know what happens? One person will try to push the ratio to $80 him, $20 you. In other words, he knows that getting $20 is better than getting $0, therefore, pushing for a zero sum game mentality. In very, very few cases the split is 50%.
This is the problem with non zero sum games. In order for them to be in a perfect economic equilibrium, you must put the other person first but you know what? The other person must put you first too.
In other words, both parties need to operate from a synergestic, win – win perspective. If only one party does this, it becomes a lose – win, a compromise or simply a loss.
And in the last year, I have learned this. It has been a year with ups and downs and I have learned this important lesson – in order for a collaboration of any kind to work, romantic, business, financial – both parties need to operate from the same perspective and both parties need to keep themselves up to the same standards. In the moment that this stops, it becomes a losing situation, a zero sum game disguised as a non-zero sum game where in practice, one person gets a lot more out of the situation than the other one.
So, this lead me to a simple conclusion. I’ve knew this for a while now but it is really starting to hit home. Operate from a win – win perspective but put yourself first. In other words, don’t go for a zero sum, don’t go for the other person to sacrifice for you but at the same time, don’t be willing to sacrifice for the other person.
In a win – win situation, you must get what you want and the other party must get what you want, that hyphotetical split where both meet at a balance and that balance satisfies the requirements of all parties involved.
In other words, it must be “hell yeah, I’m very happy with this” or it must be no deal. No giving up ground for the sake of giving ground. Not conceiding to anything for the sake of conceiding. I win, you win or we both go home.
This is not selfish. It is enlinghtened self-interest. Is when you consider yourself just as important as the other person and you’re not willing to receive less than you know you are worth. It is keeping yourself to high standards and expecting the other person to do the same.
So yes, your needs are important. What you want is important. Don’t give up on them for the sake of another person, whatever the circumstances may be. Never operate from a lose – win perspective where you incur a loss while the other person gains a win.
This may bother you but generally, everyone operates from a position of selfishness and self-interest. While we are not animals, we are evolutionary wired to put ourselves first. So if you don’t put yourself first, it becomes by default that the other person wants to look after their self-interest more than you do.
In other words …
# I put myself first, you put yourself first, let’s find a common ground for a win – win.
# I put myself first, you don’t put yourself first, you’ll sacrifice for my sake.
# I don’t put myself first, you don’t put yourself first, we’ll both lose and we’ll be worse than before.
# I don’t put myself first, you put yourself first, I’m going to lose and you’re going to win.
So, the basic rule is put yourself, your needs, your goals first. When in a collaboration based game, then find a common ground where you don’t compromise on your position but the other person gets what he or she wants too. If this is not possible, go for no deal. Don’t use people but don’t let people use you either. Don’t take what it is not unearned and undeserved but don’t let people take what is unearned and undeserved either.
This is the golden rule. Do unto others as they would do unto you. It doesn’t say “be a sucker and forget your value as a human being”. It doesn’t say “compromise because the other party deserves more than you do”. It doesn’t say “be a slave to everyone else and hope that they’ll do good unto you”.
The golden rule simply says “Do unto others as they would do unto you.”
Putting yourself first and letting the other person put himself or herself first and finding a synergestic middle ground, where 1 + 1 = 3, not 1 + 1 = 1.5 (comproming) is the systematic implementation of a 2000 old ethical rule.
It is …
“This is what I need. This is what is important for me. This is my position.
Tell me what you need. I need to understand your position.
Now that I’ve understood what you need, let’s see if I can offer you what you need while you offer mine, so we both win, so we both grow, so we both can go happy about this.
Let’s see if we can synergize in an atmoshpere of mutual respect and understanding, where your needs are just as important as mine but we’re not willing to compromise, where we’re not willing to leave to give ground for the sake of giving ground but go for a win – win.
And if we can’t do this, let’s not do this deal because I want to win and I want you to win. If we can’t both win, if we can’t both be better off as part of our involvement here, then let’s not do it.”
And this is my friends the ethical version of selfishness, the one I approve of.