How to Harness Our Selfish Tendencies

6 Nov

Recently, I had to watch several videos in order to renew my Neutral Registration in Georgia, and I completely underestimated how much I would learn from them.

One thing I learned (which I kind of already knew): People are selfish.

Now, that doesn’t mean we always act on our selfish tendencies, but, alas, we all have them. They’re probably a leftover from our caveman days when, let’s face it, survival was key.untitled (2)

Anyway, one of the speakers in one of the videos started talking about politics. Specifically, she was admonishing politicians for not acting on things that really matter: homelessness, poverty, violence. Instead, she said, we have many laws on the books outlining the specifics of elevator safety, escalator safety, and roads.


Her answer was simple: These are things that politicians use.

I started thinking how I could relate this to conflict resolution. If each party in a mediation, for example, only really cares about his or her own interests, then, how can we bring people together?

The answer’s simple: Use those selfish tendencies to reach compromise.

For example, if one party feels uncomfortable releasing money to the other party, it’s important that we show him how this will, eventually, benefit his wallet. It may take some creativity, but that’s the art of mediation.

In fact, we do it every day. How many times have you laid out the price tag associated with fighting a battle in court? Yes, one or both parties may WANT to go to war with the other party, but, when someone points out how much that will cost, well, they usually reconsider.

It’s something I hope to use more–in my therapy office and at the mediation table. After all, if we’re, by nature, selfish, then, let’s use that for good!


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