Derek Lidow

Every relationship of two or more people is based on shared objectives. They needn’t agree on how to bring it about and may not both take action to effect the change. Cooperative relationships are those where both parties agree on how to share the benefits and costs of creating change. Competitive relationships, by contrast, are those in which you don’t agree on how to allocate costs and benefits. You have differing ideas of the ideal outcome. Retreating relationships are those in which one party doesn’t care about how the benefits are shared but is supportive of the change and willing to bear some of the costs.

Every emotionally satisfying relationship has a mix of cooperative, competitive, and retreating shared objectives. I haven’t found a fourth category yet.

It’s a common mistake to think of cooperative as somehow better than competitive or retreating. Cooperation on everything takes a lot of time and attention—and may not always give you the best result. Each type can be good or bad depending upon the situation. It is your relationship to the objective, not the other party, that matters.

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