Consult-Liaison Observations

Status Game Strategy.

How do you introduce yourself when you greet people, particularly those you don’t know?

Yes, your answer might depend on who you’re meeting. But what’s your general approach?

I try to emanate warmth: I make eye contact and smile. I do what I think will make the person feel comfortable. I listen and try to speak less than the other person… unless it becomes clear that the other person wants to listen more and speak less, too.

This strategy has worked for me: It helps me form and maintain relationships. This approach has produced few, if any, negative consequences.

Some people use a different strategy when they interact with others: They assert their superiority. They say things like they have “one of the great memories of all time” and “I went to an Ivy League college… I’m a very intelligent person.”

The other way to assert superiority is to denigrate others, such as commenting that others are “weak”, “lightweight”, and “fake”.

This, of course, is a status game. Who has higher status? Who should have higher status? And if I should always have higher status, how can I make sure that everyone around me recognizes that?

Sometimes people use this status game strategy because it’s the only way they know how to interact with other people.

Maybe they learned long ago that the people in their life only paid attention to them when they said something that asserted their high status. People only took interest in them when they said things like, “I’m a very rich person.” The attention of others makes them feel worthy, seen, and valued. It’s nice to have a lot of money, but some people crave a wealth of attention.

Asserting high status, though, becomes a vicious, reinforcing cycle. After a while, people won’t care when they hear things like “I’m a very rich person”. They’ve heard that before and won’t react the way they once did. So it escalates: Soon, these individuals have the best memory, the highest IQ, and the best words.

Even though these statements are false—and verifiably false!—it doesn’t matter. Remember that outrage and indignation are still forms of attention. And some people are never satisfied with the amount of attention they receive.

This status game strategy works for some people: It helps them form and maintain relationships. For whatever reason, it has produced few, if any, negative consequences.

There are other ways, of course, to interact with people. However, it takes time and practice to do something different. Why change what you’re doing if it’s worked for you for so many years?

People who behave this way don’t need our pity. Pity doesn’t help anyone. One wonders, though, what happened to them in the past. Despite being over 70 years of age, they still don’t know how to interact with people without elevating themselves or putting others down.