Thoughts On The Social Advice To "Give Value", "Don't Take Value", Etc.
There are a few pieces of social advice related to the concept of "value". You're more likely to come across them if you're also into men's dating advice, but they don't only apply to that demographic:
- "Give value" in your conversations - In other words, bring something to the table, like being interesting, funny, a good listener, and so on.
- "Give value" in your social circle - Have things to offer in your interactions with your friends, like the point above covers. Also try to provide further benefits to knowing you, like invitations to fun events, your other friends they could meet, an apartment close to downtown everyone can hang out in before going out, etc.
- Don't "take value" without offering much in return - In conversations don't take it for granted people will entertain or emotionally support you, without you giving anything back. Among your friends and acquaintances, don't just use people as a way to find out about parties, meet new women, or network for your business.
- Don't do things that "lower your value" - For example, being short-tempered or needy.
These are all reasonable, basic suggestions. However, over the years I've seen a few people get insecure and stuck in their heads as they try to apply the advice to "give value", and not "take value" or do things to "lower their value". I think it's partially the word "value" itself that can trip them up. Here are my thoughts:
Thoughts on the general idea of "value"
In one sense "value" is something you can give to other people, say by telling an amusing story. Everyone also has an overall value. Having lots to offer means yours is higher. Constantly acting in unappealing ways lowers it. I'll comment on this definition of value first.
The concept can reinforce low self-esteem and pessimism
When you tell someone to "give value" or "don't lower your value" it gets them thinking, even on an unconscious level, "What is my overall value anyway?" They try to make a rough tally of all their positive and negative traits and rate where they stand against everyone else. The problem is many people who are looking for social advice are already insecure. So when they assess their own value they tend to come to an unfavorable conclusion. They'll think of some super-charming, hot, connected celebrity and feel they have little to offer in comparison. It reinforces their existing belief that they don't have much going for them, that other people have it easier, and that there's no point in trying. "I'm low value" can just become one more phrase they use to trash themselves.
It's fine if you want to think about what you have to offer, then decide you want to cultivate some more positive qualities. But don't think you're dead in the water unless you match up with whatever type of uber-magnetic, attractive person you see as "high value". Most people's standards for what they look for in a friend aren't so picky.
The concept can reinforce unhelpful motivations
Some socially awkward, lonely people believe they won't feel worthy or complete unless they can befriend and get approval from the popular group. Talk of "value" can play into that motivation. It's one more term that shores up their view that some people are better ("higher value") than others, and they're nothing until they're one of them.
The numbers-focused connotation of the word
I can't know for sure, but I have a hunch the specific word "value" unintentionally gets people into a numbers-focused, quantitative, "higher is better" mindset. Rather than viewing all of their personal qualities in a nuanced way, everything gets reduced to a kind of single simplistic "value rating" that sums up their broad appeal - "That guy over there clearly has more value than me. He's amazing. I suck." It's like how there are all kinds of factors that can affect how good a job is, like whether the work is interesting, the hours, or how pleasant your co-workers are. But as soon as salary enters the picture it tends to take over your thinking, even if you know better. It's so easy to see things in terms of, "Whatever position pays the biggest number is the best."
I'm not naive. I accept some people are generally considered to bring more "value" to their relationships than others. Though it's not as simple as everyone having a universal score they can rank each other against. Yeah, it's easier if you have mainstream appeal, but it's not everything. Everyone has a different value to different people. A guy who can get his friends into exclusive nightclubs may be "high value" in one social scene, but irrelevant to everyone else. An individual or trait might be "low value" to the Average Joe, but exactly what one person wants in a friend.
Giving value in conversations
Like I said, the core idea behind this advice is fine - Try to be rewarding to talk to in one way or another. It's in the execution where some people go wrong. They can get so focused on continually "giving value" they try too hard and stress themselves out. They think they have to constantly be making jokes, telling stories, sharing profound insights about life, or pumping everyone up with compliments. They can almost assume there's this invisible, ever-decreasing Value Meter that they have to keep topping up with new material, and if it drops to zero everyone will instantly decide they're a boring loser. They can be so fixated on winning everyone over they forget to think about whether they even have anything in common with the people they're trying to impress.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be fun to hang out with, or thinking about what someone may enjoy in a conversation. However, try to remember you don't need to put on an endless performance. You can usually give more than enough value by acting low key most of the time, and saying something funny or interesting here and there. People's memories aren't that short. If your friends like your humor they're not going to suddenly drop you if you're not in a joking mood during one get together. Like the last point said, everyone likes different things. Some people get annoyed if someone's always "on". What they value most of all is someone they can go on a relaxed walk with while they catch up.
Giving value in a social circle
Here some people overlook all the ways they can give value through their personality, and focus too much on the more tangible resources they can bring to a relationship, like other friends, a car, or invitations to events. They can think that if they can't offer these things then everyone's going to see them as a useless freeloader. In particular, people with no friends can worry no one will want them around because they don't have a social circle of their own for new acquaintances to connect with.
It doesn't hurt if you always have a party you can invite people to, but it's not essential. Most people pick their friends because they like their personalities and share hobbies they can have fun doing together. Whether someone knows a club promoter or has a pool is a bonus. Not to mention that people will sometimes use you for things like social connections or car rides.
Lowering your value
Once more, the main concept is sensible - If you do something off-putting or embarrassing it can hurt everyone's opinion of you. That's true. However, some people can see "value lowering" behaviors as damaging their reputation more than they usually do. They can assume if they say one mildly inappropriate or needy thing that their value instantly drops in everyone's eyes, like they got hit in some video game and half their life bar disappeared. They can think, "I messed up. I'm 'low value' now. No one wants me around anymore. I may as well cut my losses and leave the group, unless I want to spend months trying to get back in everyone's good graces."
If you do something extremely bad it may quickly wreck your social standing, but most people take their friends' small mistakes in stride. They only start to notice if someone screws up the same way over and over. Yeah, maybe deep in their brain they're docking half a value point every time a buddy whines or interrupts, but they're not consciously thinking of it that way.
I have the least to say about this one. If you're someone who tends to think in terms of what you can get out of people, without considering why they'd want to give you anything in the first place, this advice can be a good reminder not to be so self-focused. Though if you then try to give more value as a remedy, remember not to go nuts and try too hard.