Blog of Sara Jakša

Marginality of the Expressions of Love

Most people would probably not mix economics and love. But when I look at it, it is not that different. Economics deal with dealing how people, or even more abstract entities, act in relation to each other. Love simply describes the feeling that is present in at least some, if not most relationships that a person experience. Both help us understand the action of people.

And boy, do I need the help. I still remember the worst advice that I have ever gotten in relation to the social skills. It was to do to people what I would want that other people would have done to me. I am sure that for some people this works, but for me it was horrible. Most people don't want criticism, nor do they want to hear the truth, or be told when they are boring or they are whining. Something I prefer to experience. And since people don't do it, I am constantly worrying if they think it or not.

One of the interesting models that helps explain the people's relationships is the five languages of love. What this model says is, that there exist five modes of showing love: giving people time, giving them gifts, doing something for them, showing appreciation through words and physical touch. And each person has a preferred mode of receiving love.

Things are great, as long as the channels align. It becomes the problem when they don't. I usually prefer to give by giving them time, doing something for them and some physical touch. I am not well suited for people that prefer gifts or people that want encouragement. I am not even a good match for somebody with a high need for physical touch, because while I don't mind it, it is not automatic.

This is where the economics comes forth. There are concepts in microeconomics called marginal cost and marginal utility.

Marginal utility means how much does something mean to somebody. For a person that is lost in the sand desert, the bottle of water means a lot more than for somebody that is in the vacation in Budapest, with various selection of drinking beverages. What that means is that a person in the desert will have a higher marginal utility, because it means so much more to him.

The same is true, if we compare one person eating ice cream. The first scoop of ice cream is delicious. But if the person continue, by the time a person starts eating the twentieth ice cream scoop, this one is not anything special. Not only that, it some cases eating it is a chore or it can even makes a person sick. So the first one has a higher marginal utility, because there is more enjoyment to be taken from this scoop of ice cream than the later ones.

Marginal cost is similar. Let us take the hugs. When looking through the stereotypes, there are some nations that are much more likely to hug (Italians, Americans), and then there are some where this is less likely (Germany, England). So for somebody that is Italian, there is a lot less marginal cost of giving another hug, since they are so used to it already. Not some much for some people from England, where the idea itself it not that comfortable.

The same principle can also be applied to other aspects. For example, a person might not mind cooking for friends once every month and would even find it enjoyable. But try to convince them that they need to do it every day, and most people would find that a much more unpleasant to do it. Especially considering the time cooking takes.

So I think we should not let these economical concepts elope with the languages of love. I think each person has a different marginal values or curves for each of the five languages. I had put myself before as an example, my marginal cost for giving hugs is much lower than for giving gifts. And my marginal utility for getting encouragement. is much lower than marginal utility for acts of service.

Then it becomes the optimization problem. The goal is to try and find the lowest cost of doing something that will give another person a highest utility. The ideal would be that the channel that is the easiest for a person would also bring the nighest value to another.

But since people are different, it is much more likely that their preference are also different. In this case, the best course of action is to concentrate on the actions that have low marginal cost or high marginal utility. The best way would be to discuss this with a person is a relationship, but for some reason people don't want to do this.

So there is where the detective work comes into play. Observing the person and their reactions can quickly give an idea into their marginal utility for each action. Each person should know their marginal costs for their actions. Then try to balance it to get the most value for the buck, as some people like to say.

And maybe think about actually communicating what is the channel though which people can express love to give you most utility. Be the change you want to see in the world.