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Status Negotiation


Explanations > RelationshipsStatus Games > Status Negotiation

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



A common and effective way to gain status is to do a deal with someone else, where you afford them status and they also give you status in return.

This happens in basic conversation where people listen and acknowledge what each has to say. It increases when admiration and amazement are offered. It also happens when you agree with the other person and comply with their requests.

A good way to negotiate status acceptance is to start by affording them status, for example:

  • Ask they questions they may like to answer
  • Listen to them, paying full attention
  • Look for things they say that you can agree with
  • Be enthusiastic about their ideas
  • Agree to simple requests

Then seek an equivalent status acceptance in return, soon or at a later date. If they do not give status, slightly decrease your status giving, for example by showing a little less interest in what they are saying. Keep doing this until they afford you status, then return to giving them higher status.

Keep score, giving pretty much what you receive. The more you learn to trust them, the more you will be able to let this become 'sloppy', giving more status before expecting this to be repaid.


A business manager works on the principle of first praising any idea offered, giving them status. This leads to the employee thinking better of the manager, effectively giving them status. Later the manager asks probing questions, which the employee now is ready to answer. In the final decision by the manager about what to do with the idea, their status may be decreased if they refuse, but overall they will not have lost status.

Two people have an asymmetric status arrangement, where one person always wants to be thanked and praised when they do something for the other, while the other does not like praise, but does like certain tasks done for them. Status is effectively given and removed by the speed and care in helping one another. If one thinks the other is getting too much, then although they will give help, it will be quick and careless. Sometimes also it all blows up into a status-reducing slanging match.

A group of friends give and take status to one another via gossip. In this way no one person is allowed to have particularly high status. Status is removed for transgressing group norms and given for selfless helping.


The status game is often played as a give-and-get exchange. You offer status to others on the premise that they give you status in return. When they criticize you, you criticize them in return.

Much human interaction, especially between friends, is like this. We tell them they are amazing or downplay their failures, and they do the same for us. Individual friends and whole groups may have specific rules about how status is negotiated. Negotiation hence happens in groups and a person's status is the sum of all status given by all other people.

There is a status gap between any two people, which is equal to the higher status minus the lower status. There is a danger that the person with the higher status feels superior and want to keep or increase this gap and so give less status than they receive. This can lead to the lower status person showing less respect to the higher status person and otherwise seeking to reduce the gap.

When meeting people for the first time we negotiate status more carefully. A trap here is to seek status first and over-do this so the other person thinks we are just bragging and seeking dominance without balanced status. This can be seen where people stop listening and start talking at one another, escalating their attempts to grab status.

So what?

Think about your relationships with other. How is status negotiated? Are you giving enough status? Are you giving too much so they feel they are superior enough not to give any back? When you can see the status games going on, you can effectively manage them to create the status balance you need.

Beware of trying to grab high status. While this can make you feel good and increase your influence, it can also cause people to seek to bring you down, especially if you gain status at their expense.

See also



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