Shared Concern
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Shared Concern • Posted: Aug 29, 2010 14:34:46Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Human motivation has long been an interest of social scientists. Within one scheme of understanding, humans are either intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated. That is, the rewards they seek are either internal, e.g. for pleasure or to lessen pain, or perhaps to resolve a concern or achieve a desire, or they are external, e.g. for pay or to avoid a threat. Advertisers scour the literature for both novel and reliable ways to motivate us to buy. Politicians, especially Republicans, often point to potential or imagined threats to gain our interest and maybe our votes. Religious leaders threaten us with eternal damnation or the promise of life amongst angels if only we'd behave according to their proscriptions and prescriptions. Even our friends and families are constantly attempting to nudge us in one direction or another with all manner of ploy.

One such ploy is the sharing of concern, as in "Honey, I think we need to do something about that leaking pipe." It's an interesting ploy because it's so civilized. One person expresses a concern they alone have in a manner that seeks to include another in that concern through the use of the pronoun "we". Implied, but not explicitly stated, is the possibility of danger or loss. In this case, "leaking pipe" implies possible water damage. I say civilized because no extrinsic direct threat or quid pro quo is being erected. The speaker is probably for the most part extrinsically motivated, but instead of acting alone to resolve the issue they are seeking the participation of another. They intrinsically crave a civilized shared resolution to the concern. And it's interesting to note that participation of the other party may not be because they now recognize there is a need for concern. They may only act because they care that the speaker is distressed, as if they themselves were experiencing that distress. What is extrinsic becomes internalized as intrinsic, rather like "What's yours is mine and what's mine is yours."

Such shared concern is the basis for not only a workable marriage and family, but of a workable community. Coordinated action in service of shared concerns is the foundation of human civilization. Without shared concern there is no civilization. There is merely bickering over which rules or persons have authority and which do not, as is currently happening within the U.S and elsewhere.

May we all discover what ends are truly important and that working together is much more efficient and potentially more sustainably rewarding than not.

Saturday, July 11th, 2009