Social norms at holiday festivities

As I read both Sway the irresistible pull of irrational behavior and Predictably Irrational this month, I discovered that both books mentioned the contrast between social and market norms. This morning I got to wondering if there we're more than two sets of norms we operate by. I came up with a model of four norms and a way they all tie together. All four apply to what comes to our minds and comes out of our mouths at holiday gatherings.

When we're operating by military norms, we're functioning as a tight commando unit. Family togetherness is efficient and effective to fulfill the assignment. Anybody displaying egotistical selfishness is jeopardizing the mission of a well-executed holiday celebration. The cohesion of the unit is critical to get the logistics handled promptly and the troop movements kept on schedule. Scattered efforts and lazy S.O.B.'s need to be confronted immediately and set straight. Running a tight ship means everyone must demonstrate self discipline, loyalty to the command and attentiveness to changes in the battlefield of parked cars, positions in the kitchen or seats at the table.

When we're operating by market norms, everyone is a potential rival. Anyone who claims to watch your back may stab you when your back is turned. The costly contest may involve who gets the most food, presents, invitations, mail or phone calls. Questions on each marketers mind include "how long is this going to take?", "how much did this set you back?" and "did you get your money's worth when put out for this spread?". Protecting the brand means that all complaining, criticizing and comparing to other events needs to be squelched. Taking advantage of the situation may involve promoting one's own heroics, sacrifice and generous contribution to the event. Others may compete by topping your deal, denigrating yours or introducing a third rival gesture.

When we're operating by community norms, altruism runs the show. It's not about what we got, but how much and how graciously we give. It's time to share compliments, show appreciation and express gratitude. Mutual respect sets the tone and genuine listening makes it real. In this context, people don't care how much we know or what we've done lately until they know how much we care about them and have done with them in mind. We're they for each other and contribute to the good time to be had by all. We join in the festivities to make for more merriment.

When we're operating by unity norms, We're one in spirit and delightfully diverse in appearance. We have enough in common to treasure our differences. We see common ground, shared interests and kindred spirits among different lives being lived. We realize how much better time we have when we stop the clock and be here now. We enter into the moment and become far more aware of the different moods, and changing energies in our presence. It dawns on us what to say to someone that amazes or delights them. We feel so connected to everyone we have no conflicts with what people are saying or where they are coming from.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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