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Thursday, January 4

Wishful Thinking

Following the stresses with the housebuying, someone has pointed out to me that I have higher expectations of the world than perhaps are reasonable. At the end of the day, I'm negotiating a business deal with another person, and if they think that acting in a certain way can make them wealthier - whether it's pressuring me into closing sooner, or whether it's finding an excuse to boot me out of the way so they can accept a higher amount of money from someone else for the property - then why shouldn't I expect them to behave the way they do. While I accept that people act selfishly and exclusively so, and while I don't claim to be some sort of paragon of virtue myself, I still have more positive expectations of the world. I choose to try to act even-handedly in business, because I believe that this works best overall. If we're all honest, then I think we can get more.

I used a bad example to explain this, ripped directly out of some animal behaviour revision that I recall from my girlfriend's degree. The Thomson's Gazelle is an African animal which, when being pursued by a predator may spring from its back legs a few times. This is called stotting. If the animal stotts, it's a sign of the fact that it is a healthy beast and, thus, more likely to escape the pursuit. The lion, or whatever, therefore, can quickly avoid chasing after the stotting beasts, and go for the less healthy stottless wonders. Why don't all the animals stott? Well, if they did, then the lion would learn not to discriminate, and so the stotting behaviour would serve no purpose, indeed, it might be have a negative effect on the healthy ones, as they'd waste time and energy stotting. If they all stopped stotting, then the lion may waste some of its time chasing after the healthy ones, but the healthy ones may also, occasionally get caught and killed, ahead of the less healthy. So, by introducing stotting into their behaviour and being "honest" about it, both the lion and the gazelle seem to benefit.

So, by being even handed and reasonable in business, overall, I reckon that people benefit.

This is, of course, a tenuous association. In fact, in human behaviour, above the ability to pay for things and trade successfully, there are personality traits - chutzpah if you will - which can somehow outshine the competition. It is these traits which allow people to rise above their apparent humble beginnings and do well in business by somehow promising more than their competition. Some small market trader may appear to offer a better service than a bigger and more cash-rich company, and, in so doing, may trade his way to equivalent status. In reality, he may be promising more than he can deliver, but a combination of luck and determination may see him through.

This is probably another case of human nature outwitting evolution and survival of the fittest.

However, I'm drifting from what I want to say. I think that being fair is still the thing to do and the think to hope for (if not expect) from people you deal with. In some ways, you should walk away from doing business with someone who isn't being reasonable. In other ways, I think that our decisions are based on what we're trying to achieve, rather than the exact means by which we have to reach those ends. I'm not quite saying that the end will always justify the means, more that sometimes a bigger concession is instinctively made, because the cost of walking away with high principles can be too great.

If possible, I think we should do what we can to help each other out. How wimpish does that sound?

I have recently joined up with Freecycle, which is an online service for giving things away. It's like ebay, but for free. Though I have every intention of making money from my surplus items where possible, I also see no reason to attempt to drag every last pence out of everything I own. Some things are inherently worthless in terms of money, but have a worth to someone. This is where Freecycle comes in. I want rid of an old TV set. If someone wants to have it, they can have it. Otherwise it will end up in the bin. Some things can naturally end their life in a charity shop, some things are too much for a charity shop to take on. So Freecycle it is.

Wishful thinking is the title of this post, because I wish that people were good to each other, and I think that groups like Freecycle aspire to the same. With this group, you can give stuff away, which is great to see, given that some people are giving away things that I would personally be too selfish to give away, and would hoard. You can also request stuff that you want, which is a marvellous case of wishful thinking. The service is arranged regionally, and so there are not a huge number of members in each area. This doesn't stop people requesting the most specialised of items - hoping against all hope, that out of the few hundred or so people in the list, that one of them will both have and also be prepared to give away the thing that is wanted.

Here's the mail which made me chuckle:

Does anyone have a peice of worktop about 4foot long, i need to
replace part of mine, its an old colour, light beige marbled
effect.many thanks

Forget the terrible spelling and layout, and the inaappropriate use of capitalisation and punctuation. There's someone on here hoping to get a 4 foot length of worktop that will match their existing one. If they get it, I'll be very pleased for the power of the internet.

And finally, I've just switched my gas/electric supply to Scottish Power. They're offering a 100% renewable source of electricity which is environmentally friendly. It's also cheap. So, I'll be contributing to the environment AND saving money. Thank Scotland!


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