If you’ve ever wondered why some experiences and people leave you feeling pumped up and positive, and some seem to drain the life out of you, the answer lies in understanding The Concept of Fair Exchange. This concept is responsible for the successful operation of every human exchange we have on a daily basis. It’s also responsible for the effective management of our own energy and whether we’re able to direct it towards what we deem important, or whether it drains away leaving us spent.
Over the past three weeks, we’ve examined the concept itself as well as how to value and guard our end of the equation. If you’ve missed the previous articles, you’ll find links to them at the end of this page. In this 4th article, we’ll examine how to keep our account with other people in the black so that our relationships, be they professional or personal, never run into the red. We’ll also discover that it’s possible to retrieve them if they have done, and build them into worthwhile foundations for future development.
The Concept of Fair Exchange works like this:
If you GIVE more than you TAKE, you feel RESENTFUL.
If you TAKE more than you GIVE, you feel GUILTY.
It’s that “simple”. Our own awareness of our internal feedback is the first key to more effective interactions between ourselves and others, and to more effective use of the energy we start each day with. Making good choices about what deserves our energy and what doesn’t is down to our personal perception, and taking charge of how we evaluate that value is entirely up to us.
In terms of balancing our interactions with other people, especially in relationships we’d like to grow, what’s important to note here is that the “account” of Fair Exchange runs from the time each relationship is established. The balance of each account is constantly being added to and taken away from depending on how that relationship operates over time. If you consistently make sure that you’re adding value from your side, then you can build your balance into the black – earning yourself such things as respect, trust and loyalty. If you don’t hold up your side of the balance, then you may slide into the red – earning yourself such things as distrust, uncertainty, and fear. These are indicators that allow us to know where our balance sits and whether we need to make a deposit.
Keeping your Fair Exchange Bank Balance in the black means both sides of the relationship can grow from good, clean energy that isn’t restricted by guilt or resentment in any way. This is a win/win environment. Not only does being in fair exchange make today smooth, but it supports tomorrow’s operations too.
There is one premise worth repeating here though, and that’s that the only person you are in control of is yourself. Therefore, you control only your side of any equation. Ensuring we invest in accounts with people who are willing to balance their side of the equation is essential. Investing with someone who only makes withdrawals from their side, and no deposits, defeats the purpose of trying to build a foundation as the account will always be in the red no matter how much of your own resources you use.
Maintaining a balance in the black means that each side of the equation feels that they’re receiving something of value and the exchange is balanced and fair. If you exchange too much, you feel resentful because what you receive in return doesn’t seem adequate. If you exchange too little, you feel guilty because you’ve received more than what you invested from your side.
Let’s keep in mind that this concept works across all our relationships. It works with our colleagues, employees and customers in business. It works with our staff, students and parents in the education field. It works with our families, friendships and personal relationships too.
Value is a personal perception
When we evaluate an exchange, be it buying a product, having a conversation or doing what’s asked of us, we evaluate it first with the only tool we have available to us – our own perception.
Perception is a very individual thing because it’s made up entirely of our own life experience so far. It’s made up of every stored experience and the meaning we assigned to that experience. Remembering that every interaction we have is an exchange helps us to continually evaluate whether these exchanges are fair – not only from our side, but from the side (and perspective) of the other person or parties involved.
When I first started discussing this concept, a client and colleague in the education field shared the following insight: “One is inclined to consider the tangibles such as workload and remuneration, but I have had to reflect on the unintended consequences to the growth of a relationship that come from perception. I even found myself thinking about fair exchange in terms of surprise tests and remedial lessons which can sometimes be perceived as being unfair since they have a punitive element of taking away club times, which for some students is their downtime.”
Assessing any equation means investigating both sides of it. Yours and theirs. Your perception and their perception. The importance of consideration and communication starts to become apparent.
Like any account, there should be a natural ebb and flow to the deposits and withdrawals (give and take) made from our relationships with others. Sometimes you need something from someone. Sometimes, they need something from you. Sometimes it’s a simple as exchanging a smile and a kind word. Sometimes it requires the investment of time and considerable effort from one or other of us.
Occasionally, we need to make decisions and take actions that don’t sit well with the people on the other side of our relationships. Sometimes, we need to do things that will cost other people time, energy and more that they may not have willingly made available. Occasionally, we make withdrawals by mistake, without realising the cost to others.
Withdrawals made without consideration and communication can be costly, lowering our residual balance more than we may have anticipated. Large withdrawals made without prior communication tend to exact more than just the value we understood they would. They may cause others to feel distrust, or fear. We can avoid these issues by handling our transactions with others with care and forethought, by communicating our needs openly and checking theirs.
It stands to reason that we can’t expect to make withdrawals from an account we’ve not added value to in advance. If we’ve not added value from our side before asking someone for something, we can expect our “account” with them to be low or empty. Any request for energy from them may put us in overdraft, and the interest on an overdraft can be steep.
Understanding the Currency We Exchange
Our “accounts” with other people work off of exchanged energy, and our perception of the value we share with each other. There are some forms of energy that weigh more heavily than others, both positively (deposits) and negatively (withdrawals). Let’s look at an example of each.
Fear weighs heavily in the negative when it comes to Fair Exchange, and it’s something we’re designed to feel fairly quickly as humans. Whether it’s a little uncertainty, or an instant threat to something we value deeply, causing or allowing others to feel fear drains energy from our accounts with them incredibly quickly.
One of the worst conveyers of fear is something we frequently do without realising it – we don’t give enough information. We don’t give our reasoning, and we leave blanks for people to fill in themselves. Filling in blanks is an innate human skill and we’re practised at filling them in with the worst-case scenario so that we’re prepared. Take responsibility for your end of every interaction and communicate fully, or what you thought was a simple exchange could put you into overdraft.
Now truth has the exact opposite effect when it comes to balancing and recharging our accounts with other people. You’ve heard the expression “I’d rather have your worst truth than your best lie”? That’s because truth has weight to it like nothing else does. In the truth bucket are qualities such as integrity, honesty, authenticity and vulnerability. These qualities are hugely valuable and top up our transactional “relationship accounts” with others faster than any other deposits.
Truth and authenticity can rebuild balances we previously thought were irretrievably in the red. We don’t always know when we’re being lied to, but we can generally tell when we’re getting the truth, and even if we don’t like the truth, we respect it. We recognise that it takes courage and vulnerability to tell the truth, and those things help to balance out any account. Keeping people in the loop, being transparent and giving people enough information to build a whole picture with are things that gain you big points in terms of Fair Exchange.
Admitting your mistakes, and explaining what we’d like to do to rectify the withdrawals we’ve made is the fastest way to rebalance our exchanges with others.
Practise keeping those accounts balanced this week. Take note of the indications that any of your accounts could be running low or heading into the red. Trust your instinct and find a way to deposit something valuable to the other person. Be discerning about who you invest your energy with in the first place, and don’t continue making endless deposits if someone else is only making withdrawals. Communicate. Find out what the other person needs and values. Share the Concept of Fair Exchange with them.
Remember that not only does being in fair exchange make today smooth, but it builds a solid foundation for tomorrow too!
Do the work. COMMUNICATE to find out what’s needed.
Previous articles on The Concept of Fair Exchange:
#1 – The Simple Concept That Governs All Our Interactions
#2 – Valuing Our Side of The Exchange
#3 – 3 Ways To Guard Your Energy From Leaks
by Christen Killick
June 21st, 2021