Survival trumps friendship during a recession…

20 Dec

How many of your friends are struggling in this economy?  Have you noticed that these same friends do more cocooning and are less receptive?  How about you – do you find yourself withdrawing from social occasions when your own finances head south?  Of course if one does not have money to go out, it is obvious that spending will decrease.

Do you think this recession (and its continuation) affects our overall society and friendliness?  Has the sociological effect of the downturn been a consideration by our U.S. congress?  Could our global outlook and our friendship to the world be affected by this economy?

I wondered about many of these questions both professionally (as work has decreased and my own financial situation has worsened) and personally (where friendships seem harder to keep up) – and I finally think I have discovered a link between the economy and friendships in the world.  Read on…

One of the most famous models used to explain human behavior is called

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

In short, how humans behave is influenced first by our physiological needs (food, shelter, clothing and other basics of survival), then by our safety needs (personal safety, job security, medical needs), both of which must be satisfied before the social or other higher-level needs enters the picture. At the top of the pyramid is self-actualization or the ideal “nirvana” situation for people whose lower level needs (including social and self-esteem needs) are satisfied.  According to Maslow, the highest achievement any person can do is to reach the top of the pyramid.  (Of course, there is a full school of knowledge and sociology that accompanies this model and ample internet materials about each level – I simply wanted to present the basic premise of the model here.)

Have you noticed a lessening of overall friendliness and friendships during the recession?

I’ve been puzzled by some of the personal interactions with friends and how more and more people seem to be cocooning these days, then it hit me that it may be due to Maslow’s hierarchy.  Here is my theory:

When people are without sustainable income, have lost their jobs/livelihood, or are scrambling to make their mortgage payments (shelter), pay for food or give the essentials to their families – their entire world and survival is affected. Moreover, as a result, wherever they may have been prior to their current situation (i.e., self-actualized or social) – they end up being at the base level of the pyramid.  The same situation happens when the economy forces people to revisit their spending habits when their own job or medical security is affected (level 2).

As such, friendships are the domain of level 3 – social needs – and when people are challenged to succeed in level 1 or to reach level 2, their social needs fall by the wayside.  This recession no doubt will count among its casualties the demise of many, many friendships and relationships.  Not only will these relationships be those that are personal neighbor-to-neighbor type relationships, but rather also global political relationships between nations.  When a country’s people are foraging for work and barely surviving, it is no wonder that their outlook on the world is degraded.

So, consider this – perhaps instead of equally withdrawing from people who withdraw from us due to their own survival needs being first, we should be friendlier and extend our hand with more patience and consideration of their plight.  After all, if they are in basic survival mode, they cannot possibly see their way into putting friends or relationships as a priority.

A few suggestions…

Here are a few ideas of how you (and I) can make a difference in today’s “survival trumps friendship” state of society:

  • Smile and be patient with sales clerks and restaurant service people who seem to be frustrated;
  • Open a door for someone or help someone carry a package that they seem to be struggling to carry;
  • Let someone else have the closer parking spot;
  • Let someone go ahead of you in the grocery line even if they have more than the express line number of items;
  • Pay for a friend’s cup of coffee instead of going Dutch;
  • Give someone a compliment (sincerely);
  • Show understanding when someone is slow at a checkout line or in traffic;
  • Give a homeless person at an intersection a few dollars;
  • Forget that someone cut you off in traffic.

Remember that those who cross your path may not be as fortunate as we might be at the current moment.  For me, when I see someone less off than I am, I consider the phrase “for the grace of God, go I” – because our roles could be reversed if not for good fortune and opportunities I have had.

What do you think?

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and safe weekend ahead!

Carol

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