When selfishness doesn’t scale

One of my coworkers joked that the only reason she stays away from the dishwasher is, she’s a real feminist fighting the good fight.

That’s admirable. Good for her for standing her ground and not upholding that outdated gender stereotype.

On the other hand, there’s a fine line between honoring your cherished values and not being a good office citizen. If your team is stressed out and the dishes are piling up because the office manager is sick or the dishwasher is broken, it doesn’t really matter what you think about who should or should not help tidy the place up.

We all pitch in. Culture is everyone’s responsibility.

It’s a perfect example of how selfishness doesn’t scale.

Because when you’re the only person you have to worry about, by all means, be as selfish as you want. But when you’re part of a team or a family or even just a couple, it’s possible that by sticking to your guns, you shoot others in the foot. Not cool.

Our goal, then, is learning how to defer with love. Not surrendering our values in every small decision, where not speaking up starts becoming a habit other people take advantage of.

But rather, figuring out what brand of compromise we are willing to live with, for the sake of the team.

Because even if that team is only two people, this stuff ads up.

Gottman, the psychological researcher and clinician, has a quiz for people to determine the state of compromise in their relationships. Here are a few questions that resonated with me. Think about where you, your partner, friends and coworkers might fall.

*Can you give in when you need to?
*Are you stubborn, but not opposed to compromising?
*Are you able to yield somewhat, even when you feel strongly about an issue?
*Are you willing to compromise even when you know you’re right?

Clearly, if there is a perpetual and unsolvable problem, then it’s worth sticking to our guns and fighting for what believe. On the other hand, if we can find a solution that allows both people’s dreams, then it’s a win for the team.

Overall, the lesson to keep in mind is that selfishness, while useful and important individually, doesn’t scale. We’re all in this circus called life together, and if we stop being good citizens, the elephants will start to get restless.

Are you willing to be an imperfect living realization of your values and beliefs?


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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