Why You Should Never Depend on a Person’s Goodwill

This article might seem a bit “anti” at first glance, but it actually bears a positive message.

Like it or not, we live in a world filled with people.

People are sophisticated biological creatures. They have survival needs like any other biological creature, but as social beings, humans also have psychological survival needs as well.

This means that if a human’s own perceived survival is threatened, then it can often have similar effects to threatening their natural survival.

Humans learn these “survival” skills at an early age. Some people learn to be extremely competitive, some learn to be mediocre, some learn to deceive and manipulate, and others learn to sponge and steal.

Whatever the case, you can never truly trust someone until you see how they respond under undesirable circumstances. It is often said that the only way to judge a person’s true character is when things get bad.

But things don’t even have to be “objectively” bad in order to trigger some people’s fears and send them into their survival programming. It could all just be made up in their own heads.

The point is that you should never assume that someone is going to respond favorably…especially when you’re counting on them to do so.

It doesn’t matter how nice you are, how many gifts you give, how much help you offer…if someone’s survival instincts get triggered and they don’t have the tools, resources, or inclination to deal with their feelings, then you are going to get screwed over.

Any nice things you do should be 100% freely given. This means don’t give a gift and expect one in return. Don’t do a bunch of nice stuff and then expect them to be nice to you. And certainly don’t loan someone money…if anything, just give them the money and if they pay you back then think of it as a bonus.

If you keep track of your good deeds, you will get burned.

Do good deeds because they feel good. Do them because you want to. Do them because you believe in it. Do them for any reason except to accumulate social capital.

Anything you do or offer should be 100% voluntary.

Whenever you set yourself up to depend on a person’s goodwill, you will ultimately lose. This is where the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” comes from.

I’ve recently learned this lesson personally as well as in business. As sad as it might seem, I have to remind myself of all the times I’ve tried to help someone hoping that they’d help me back.

So far I can only point to situations where I was lucky that I didn’t get burned worse.

If you put your dependency in the hands of someone’s goodwill, you can only ever get lucky. And if you continue to do it, then you will get burned.

And I want to point out that I’m not saying you shouldn’t help people. Help them. But understand that you cannot control whether they help you back, or even if they’re grateful that you helped them.

Don’t offer anything unless it is 100% freely given. If you’re expecting gratitude in return, that’s still an expectation. And if your satisfaction depends on that expectation, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Do not get into a situation where you find yourself counting on someone else’s goodwill, hospitality, or altruism. It will catch up to you sooner than you think, comrade.

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