It happens quietly in the background and you don’t even realize you’re doing it.

by Tim Denning

There was something that I was doing for my entire life and didn’t realize it. So many people stayed away from me as a result. Opportunities went up in flames behind closed doors. I never even got to see those opportunities.

My problem? I approached new relationships with a transactional mindset. Whenever I was introduced to a new person, my brain would have these thoughts:

Is there an angle? What can I get? How can they help me? How will they make me look? What have they achieved? What can I learn from them? Maybe they will be helpful later on . . .

These thoughts would cause me to do favors for people while secretly expecting something in return later on. (The unspoken future thank you.)

The Problem

This is transactional thinking.

Transactional thinking is where you interact with people solely based on what you can get, while completely ignoring them, their goals and their needs. Your mindset becomes one of “how do I gain from this?”

This is an issue because when a human being feels like they are being used or are part of a transaction, they subconsciously don’t like it. Something can feel off and many times they don’t know why.

So what do they do? They move away from you.

Here are some examples from my life:

  • I would talk to someone only after looking at their LinkedIn profile.
  • I would accept a meeting only if there was an opportunity to progress my work or career.
  • I would allocate my time to people based on what they could give me.

This way of thinking was a disease and I didn’t even know it.

It was exhausting to keep tally

This way of thinking caused me to keep a mental tally.

“Okay well, he’s asked me for the fourth time to endorse his work and given me nothing. No more. He’s out of favors.”

***Hits the non-existent ghost button on his wireless keyboard***

By always having to keep score, my life and the people I interacted with felt transactional. Transactional behavior takes us back to our animal roots. It means we become no smarter than a monkey.

People can feel you say silently “what have you done for me lately?” when your life is set up as a series of transactions — where you attempt to take slightly more value each time in the hope that you will get rich or become an overnight hit in a particular field.

The catalyst for the shift in thinking

I began to study and notice generous people.

They seemed happier. They didn’t give a damn about much. They seemed to have inner-peace. They seemed like they had their stuff together.

I thought to myself “I wanna drink the Kool-Aid too and get off this junk food diet of transactional thinking.”

The generous people I studied were people you’ve probably never heard of: Oleg Vishnepolsky, Ahmad Imran, Michael Lane, my buddy Karl, a farmer with a blue chequered shirt who I once worked with.

The replacement for a transactional mindset

These generous people I studied carefully and spent time with all had a similar approach.

They had a conversation for the hell of it.
They gave first, always.
They expected nothing in return.
They did a large amount of favors — many of those favors were for strangers.

If it felt good, they did it.

If it was doing the right thing, then they did the right thing. To be more precise: they did their thing — selflessness. Loud and proud.

The Result

Making the subtle shift from transactional thinking — with an intent to get something from every person and conversation — to expecting nothing in return and connecting with people changed the game.

I met a lot more interesting people. I wrote about completely wacky experiences through random conversations.

My expectations of people dropped. Overall: I realized I already had enough and didn’t need to gain anything.

Without the burden of trying to acquire, and be a physical and mental maximalist, life felt more free-flowing. There was less stress. My behavior became a lot more people-focused. This led me to leadership positions at work and in everyday life.

Then uncertain times hit.

These people I met by dropping the transactional mindset stepped in. They showed me their support. They stayed in contact. They sent me texts with zero agenda. They made me feel part of something bigger.

When every interaction and introduction is no longer a transaction, you remove the barrier to meeting people who can change your life.

Join my email list to stay in touch.

originally published by Tim Denning for P.S. I Love You on Medium.com.

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