It’s so easy to get caught up in little things, and when you only consider monetary costs, it seems that overall costs can still exceed benefits, even if you save money. Case in point? My trip to the storage place.

The woman that helped me was pretty nice, and her slowness didn’t bother me so much. I enjoyed the time standing at the counter and admiring the details of the characters on my lanyard, and looked for similarities between the shapes of my keys. I went to move my small load of things into my 5 X 10 sweetspot, and came back to find the couple that was waiting behind me arguing over a charge of 20 bucks. I was aware of the online discount, but didn’t think that it was worth troubling a perfectly good customer/salesperson relationship by complaining, having to re-do the transaction, can we think about it like opportunity cost of time? Opportunity cost of relationships? Opportunity cost of an ulcer? At what dollar amount do I care to say something?

I think the difference is that I looked at her as another human being and not someone that was there to give me what I wanted. I felt grateful for her giving me the opportunity to slow down for a few moments, and observe something that I hadn’t given attention before. I was grateful for her kindness. I could have easily looked at the entire situation from another viewpoint – a negative one – how slow she was! And she forgot my discount! The couple wound up storming out to go to another storage place, arguing with each other, and I said “I hope your day looks up, it’s pretty nice outside, bye!” and returned to my car. I wonder how the rest of the couple’s day went? Did they find a storage spot, and if so, was it worth it? Money wise? Mood wise? Time wise? Did they potentially just close the door for returning to that place? Is playing the role of the angry customer even worth it?

The question I really want to ask has to do with manipulation and using leverage and other manipulative strategies, maybe some passive agressive-ness, to get what you want. In a nutshell, it’s using people. I know a handful of people that get by with this strategy, and I find that when they ask me for something, the normal rewarding feeling that I get when helping someone that I care about just isn’t there. In a few of the cases, I can tell a relationship isn’t balanced, and my kindness is being taken advantage of, just by that feeling.

Is this idea of networking any different? No matter what you call it, I can’t stand it. At the end of the day, the item may be obtained, the money may be saved, you may get what you desire at the use or abuse or guilt of someone else, but it’s such a dirty game, and I can’t imagine the manipulator will have many friends in the long run.

In this case, we were in the same situation, but we acted upon it differently and as a result, wound up with two completely different outcomes and states of mind. Interesting.