It happens all the time: at work, you get paid for it. In relationships, you get dumped for it. And in friendships, there is seldom mending it. No, not misusing social media to blackmail investors or keep in touch with your ex or see your best friend’s boyfriend behind their back. I’m talking about the simple yet shattering act of using people for personal gain—using their skills, their connections, or even their assets to further your own selfish needs.
At work, this is called networking. You’re in a room with total strangers and awkward acquaintances that may or may not have business connections that could quite possibly help launch or further your career. So you make the proper “How do you dos,” pass them a business card, and move along to the next poor sucker.
I’m not sure if this is a “New Yorker” thing or even an “As you get older” thing, but I’ve noticed that I’ve developed a disturbingly clever knack for manipulation that allows maximum extortion of another person. That can’t be a healthy to see people, as what they offer instead of who they are; then again, the world is an imperfect place.
In relationships, this sense of extraction is heightened because you’re emotionally invested the other person. You’re putting in your precious time and feelings and hoping that it pays off…eventually. But being in the generation of instant gratification, you start investigating their assets in the early stages of development so you don’t make a potentially fatal investment that could leave you penniless—metaphorically speaking.
In good relationships, that investment turns into a multi-million dollar company co-founded by the two of you. Your shared ideas and passion for invention take you to the bank, then to Europe, and then down the aisle where you pledge to continue this charade of mutual extraction because you both see the same vision for how your lives are supposed to play out.
In bad relationships, only one person has these rose colored lenses. The other person is completely oblivious to the criminal mind of the other. But as time goes on, suspicions arise until they grow so enormous that a fight erupts more deadly than a volcanic thunder storm and causes the relationship AND the investment to permanently terminate.
But for the truly selfish and possibly sociopathic, there’s a way around the black and white and into the gray where manipulations can occur, relationships can end, and you’ll still wind up a winner.
Want to know how?
Try being an honestly authentic person. Be confident and ambitious to go after what you want without shame or regret. Whether this mantra pertains to relationships, career paths, or simply a balanced diet, don’t be afraid. Selfish or selfless, we all have needs and ways of fulfilling them. As long as you’re honest with yourself, your investments will always reward you.