Psychological Egoism is Always At Play

A Foundational Principle Upon Which You Can Improve Your Communication Skills


To dig into this principle, let's begin with two questions...
WHO is the most important person in YOUR world?

Do you have your answer? Great!
Next question…
WHY is this person the most important person in YOUR world?
When I stand in front of large groups and ask these two questions, anywhere from 65% to 85% of the room names a SPOUSE, PARTNER, or SIGNIFICANT OTHER. The reasons they give are things like...
  • "He's my rock."
  • "She's my greatest cheerleader."
  • "He's the one person I can be myself around."
  • "I can't imagine life without her."
  • "He's just makes me happy. I enjoy life with him."
Anywhere from 10% to 25% will often name a child. In general, when naming a CHILD, parents say things like, "They're my world. My world revolves around them. They bring true happiness and joy to my world."

But then I remind them that I asked for THE most important person in their world so if they have multiple children, they will have to pick one. Most parents are appalled at the notion of having to pick one child over another, however occasionally, I'll have a few who do, and they'll say things like…
  • "Well if I can only pick one, I pick my oldest because he's a lot like me. We're two peas in a pod."
  • "I pick my youngest because she's still needs me and wants me around."
Then, periodically, there will be a small percentage of individuals who name a parent or grandparent saying things like…
  • "They're always there for me and they love me unconditionally."
  • "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am today."
  • "Everything I have is because of them."
That usually leaves a small percentage who haven't answered so I will ask, "Who did you choose?" to which they quietly (and somewhat apologetically) respond, "Myself."

This is when I announce to the rest of the room, "The individuals who picked themselves are the only ones who answered honestly." (I know…you're probably cringing at the thought of that but hang in there with me. This will make sense very soon.)

In social psychology, there's a descriptive theory called PSYCHOLOGICAL EGOISM.

It states that humans are motivated by their own self-interest, welfare, and well-being. Because of this, when people choose to do things, they do so because of personal benefits they expect to obtain –  directly or indirectly.

​Simply put…all human actions are based in self-interest.
Don't believe me? 
Proof exists in the reasons why people choose others as their most important person.
WHO are these reasons really about?
  • "He's my rock. She's my greatest cheerleader."
  • "He's the one person I can be myself around." 
  • "I can't imagine life without her."
  • "He's makes me happy. I enjoy life with him." 
  • "Well if I can only pick one, I pick my oldest because he's a lot like me. We're two peas in a pod."
  • "I pick my youngest because she's still needs me and wants me around."
  • "I never really experienced true happiness and joy until I had my child."
  • "They're always there for me and they love me unconditionally."
  • "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am today."
  • "Everything I have is because of them."
Take a few moments to think about who you named and your reason why. Did it have anything to do with what you have to gain (or are gaining) from your relationship with them?
Psychological Egoism is a critical part of our internal wiring that ensures that we take care of ourselves so this isn't anything we should be bothered by or disappointed with.

That said, it is something we need to be aware of at all times because it is the foundation upon which our 1st Principle for more more effectively communicating and interacting with others is built.

Humans evaluate and respond to everything they encounter based on its impact on them.

1

Self-interest is the basis for all human interaction which means the most important person in another person's mind is themselves

2

Because of this, they EVALUATE everything they encounter based on its IMPACT ON THEM.

3

This evaluation then heavily influences their decision making as to how they will respond, and what is in their best interest, welfare, and/or well-being will be a key driver.

And by the way, you're doing the same thing whether you're conscious of it or not.

Here's why knowing and understanding this principle is so dang important...

1

It reminds us that the way in which others respond to our communication and interaction with them has nothing to do with us, but rather...everything to do with the impact our communication and interaction is having on them.

2

It improves our situational-awareness because we are now better positioned to focus on the right things when seeking to understand why others are thinking & behaving in the ways that they are thinking & behaving.

(We'll address the 'right things' in an upcoming blog post.)

3

Lastly, knowing others will evaluate and respond to our communication and interaction with them based on the impact it has on them, we can be more thoughtful and intentional with our approach by proactively anticipating how they might respond to the various ways in which we can choose to communicate and interact with them.

This is why Maya Angelou famously observed that...

Maya Angelou

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

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February 12, 2020
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