Interpersonal relationships are a complex art that involves balancing giving and receiving. We give love. We compromise. We sacrifice ourselves. We invest our time. We lay bare our emotions. We strive. And we hope to receive the same in return.
This expectation of reciprocity is fundamentally based on belief in a kind of universal justice. We believe that, sooner or later, everything we have given will be returned to us. We are convinced that the universe somehow keeps a sort of archive where it records our good deeds and, sooner or later, will take care of returning them to us.
But the transactional mindset will only lead to frustration and disappointment because life is unfair, the universe doesn't keep a record, and people don't always give us back what we give them.
The principles behind the transactional mindset
Many people subconsciously develop a transactional mindset. This type of mentality is based on two fundamental principles:
1. Evaluate the transaction against the relationship. The transactional minded person focuses more on what they will receive than on the quality of the relationship they are building. He gives love because he expects to receive love. She helps the other because she expects the other to help her. She works hard because she hopes they won't leave her alone. Turn the relationship into a kind of "investment account" where he only deposits attention, care and time because he expects to receive exactly the same in return.
2. Prioritize your own needs over those of others. Although transactional minded people may seem very compromised, committed and selfless, their ultimate goal is actually "commercial". They establish relationships hoping that others will meet their needs and that, if necessary, they take a back seat to give them priority. Their approach is fundamentally self-centered because they try to use others as chess pieces that they can move as they please.
These people believe that helping and loving is a kind of blank check that others must be willing to pay at any time. Their transactional mindset prevents them from understanding that help and love are not bargaining chips and that they are given without asking or expecting anything in return.
The trap of the transactional mindset
The main problem with the transactional mindset is that the person subordinates relationships to the benefits they can obtain. See interpersonal relationships as an exchange that you can profit from, usually in emotional terms. However, he is unlikely to recognize his ulterior motives as the transactional mindset is so ingrained that he believes it to be normal and predictable.
In reality, these are people who are unable to satisfy their own needs and try to satisfy them through others. They hate loneliness and look for someone to keep them company. They don't love each other enough and are looking for someone who loves them. They do not take into account the fact that the other also has his own priorities, his needs and his goals in life, which do not always coincide with his own.
In the long run, the transactional mindset tends to make these people overly demanding. They are specialists in making others feel bad if they don't get what they want by resorting to various incriminating manipulation techniques.
In fact, relating to a person who has this kind of mindset can be very confusing and frustrating. Our instincts are likely to make us distrust that generosity, dedication and sacrifice. However, this distrust can also make us feel guilty, as if we are ungrateful, after "everything they have done for us".
In reality, what happens is that these people "catch" us in their nets. Although we are not always fully aware of it, in a certain way we sense that we are contracting relationship debts which we will then have to pay dearly for.
Don't expect to receive what you give, give what you are
The alternative to the transactional mindset is to cultivate a sensitive mindset. When we assume a sensitive mentality we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, instead of adopting an egocentric posture. We stop binding others with relationship debts in exchange for our favors. We understand that no one owes us anything.
We begin to understand that while we don't receive everything we give, we give what we are, and that's what really matters. So let's stop looking for love and give love. We stop looking for company and offer company. We stop looking for support and offer support.
The sensitive mind helps the other because that act makes it feel good, not because it expects to receive something in return. Let's stop "commercializing" relationships and counting favors. Then we can celebrate as a great gift every gesture of love, every small sacrifice and every reciprocated commitment.