Last week’s experiment was about keeping in mind that “Weight of the sacrifice is based on the individual.” It’s definitely advice from “Hell yeah!” category, even though it triggered cognitive dissonance (because it reminded me too much of labor theory of value – see below).
Summary: I learned two things from this experiment:
- I see actions of others in a more positive way, the big ones and the little ones. Because sometimes the little things are the big things.
- I don’t expect others to understand “how much I give”, and I don’t expect them to act like they understand it.
“Weight of the sacrifice is based on the individual.”
What does Gabby Reece mean by this sentence? She means that when people do/give the same thing, it’s not really the same. The effort they’re giving depends on their individuality (e.g. monogamous relationship is easy for some but difficult for others). And I would add that it also depends on the circumstances.
In economy, there are two opposing theories of value. One is labor theory of value, which says the value of good or service is determined by effort required to create it. The other is the subjective theory of value, where value is determined by the importance of good or service to person who receives it.
I subscribe to the latter theory – I believe that just because someone put a lot of effort to something it doesn’t make it automatically valuable. But Gabby’s advice is inviting us to not just look at the utility of the deed/action, but also how difficult was it for the person providing it (=effort).
In other words, we should not just look at the outcome, but we should look at intentions too.
It’s one of those “common sense” ideas, but it’s really interesting to be aware how it applies to our everyday life.
Some examples how I applied it at work
- I asked our management for something that may be common in other companies, but it’s not in this one. I personally thanked everybody involved – because I realized how big step it is for them to go from conservative to modern.
- I was less impatient when explaining a business case to a colleague. He couldn’t understand it as quickly as I wanted, but he put fair amount of effort and I can appreciate that.
- I invited new colleague for lunch. I was proud of it (I’m more than a bit asocial), but I can’t expect him to appreciate how difficult it is for me, because he doesn’t know me that well.
It helped me to act in a more empathetic way
- Our friends Sam and Iv brought rum from Peru – a nice touch considering they traveled through Asia for 2 months with packed backpacks. But then I found out that it was even bigger “sacrifice” – they spent 1 week on a tiny romantic island with not much to do and no bar to go to. They had the option to have romantic Peruvian rum cocktail against a beautiful tropical sunset. Instead they persevered and brought the rum to us as a gift. Talk about sacrifice 🙂
- It doesn’t have to be just about things we “receive”. It works great for increasing empathy.
One of Sam’s and Iv’s stories from South America included dangerous incident with a snake. It sounded very scary. But then I found out that Iv has severe snake phobia. It put a different light on just how brave she was to go back into that jungle again.
My favorite example is about discussing sensitive topic with my local colleagues.
I talked to them about (foods made with) poppy seeds. Unlike in Europe, poppy seeds are illegal in Singapore. On top of that, Singaporeans are raised to be obedient (compliance = virtue) and never question authority.
Any grandma in Slovakia wouldn’t think twice about eating a cake with these harmless seeds. But my colleagues were indoctrinated in many ways and the official story is that poppy seeds are evil. So for my colleagues it takes quite a lot of courage to be open about this topic.
This experiment did not only change my perception of the actions of others. It also made me question why I feel some things are easy for others but difficult for me. Is it just a limiting story that I’m telling myself? How can I make it easier?