Status seeking

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither proper plumbing nor good philosophy; neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water. – John W. Gardiner, former president of the Carnegie Corporation.

In addition to understanding Core Human Drives, it is essential to realise that humans are social creatures. Like many other mammals, humans evolved to have a “pecking order”, a relative ranking of power (discussed later) or status in a group. Competing with other people for status and power brought many benefits, including access to food, mates, resources, and the protection of other group members.

Status considerations are no longer as critical to survival, but our brains developed to place a very high priority on social status. As a result, status considerations influence the vast majority of a person’s decisions and actions.

Status seeking is a universal phenomenon: neurotypical human beings care intensely about what other people think of them, and they spend a significant amount of energy tracking their relative status compared to other members of their group. When opportunities to increase status appear, most people will seize them. When given a choice between different alternatives (discussed later), people will typically choose the option with the highest perceived status.

In general, we like to be associated with people and organisations that we think are powerful, important, or exclusive or that exhibit other high-status qualities or behaviours. We also love to ensure other people are aware of our status: for proof, examine what people post on their Facebook profiles.

Status seeking is a fact of human life: it is not necessarily bad or something to be avoided. On the contrary: status seeking can motivate people to accomplish amazing things. In words Alain de Botton, a philosopher and social critic, “If one felt successful, there’d be so little incentive to be successful”.

Unchecked, this can lead people to make poor decisions: think of someone who purchases a large house, luxury car, and designer clothing, only to end up bankrupt or in severe debt. As an individual, paying attention to how much you value status is useful when making buying decisions, mainly when other options can meet the same needs or desires at a lower cost.

As a business professional, it is important to understand those status considerations are present at every level of the core human drives. When you make an offer to a new prospect, they will automatically and unconsciously examine how your offer will influence their social status. Consciously building Social Signals (discussed later) into your offer is almost always an effective way to increase its appeal to your target market.

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