The “Covert” Contract Problem – How Not To Deal With People

Have you ever been through an experience where you’ve done a bunch of favors for people, such as working with them through some difficult tasks, or something simple like helping them move, and after a while you realized that they’ve given nothing back in return after expecting it? It feels pretty bad when this happens. You become quite resentful of the person or people and realize that maybe they’re not worth helping.

Well, unfortunately for you, they’re not the problem – you are, especially when you haven’t defined the terms of the contract.

This kind of behavior can be very easily identified in the dating world, particularly with “Nice Guys”, who believe that by being a saint to a woman, they’ll eventually reward them with the gates of Valhalla – that being entry into their vagina. It doesn’t really work that way though and ends up making the woman feel pressured and confused, while simultaneously the Nice Guy is enraged and resentful.

This is all part of “covert contract” behavior, a term which I first heard from Dr. Robert Glover, the author of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” – and a book I highly recommend to everyone. Covert contracts are favors but with hidden expectations – I scratch your back but I never told you that I’m expecting mine to be scratched too. This behaviour isn’t just a problem within sexual relationships, but in almost every social situation imaginable. It’s a failure for the contract giver to define their terms and expectations.

But here’s the kicker: the contract giver usually doesn’t believe they did anything wrong. They simply held the expectation that people would magically deal in an exchange that was never explicitly coined. Usually, it’s not apparent that they do this, so it needs to be pointed out to them for them to consider making a change.

Hidden expectations behind social interactions is a sure fire way to create resentment and fractured relationships. Without saying anything to the other party about what you expect or want, you’re setting up a ticking time bomb: one where the other party is completely unaware, and your emotions, thoughts and general outlook becomes more and more loaded with impatience, resentment and anger.

It eventually culminates in a breach of trust and breakdown of communication. The contract giver blames the other party for not living up to their expectations, while the other party is lost, confused and feeling betrayed because they never even had an idea there were expectations to begin with!

The cause behind these “covert contracts” is usually found in the realm of self-worth and assertiveness, where the giver, in some implicit sense, does not believe that explicitly defining their terms and asking for what they want is worth doing, ie. their self worth is very low. It’s usually masked by excuses such as “I don’t want to bother them” or “they’ll just get annoyed”, but the reality is, the giver is afraid to say what they want because they lack the self worth to understand that what they want is important. News flash: it is!

I say that with some experience, as in my youth (and even recently) I have applied covert contracts to some relationships – but I had the honesty to take a step back and look at myself. Reflection is important, and it’s okay to screw up. Just make sure you’re willing to replace the screw up with a productive development.

So what’s the solution? Well, it’s really quite simple: acknowledge your needs and don’t be afraid to assert them. If you’re interested in a woman, tell her and ask her out. Don’t play the friendly game and do lots of things for her expecting a hand out and a hand job – that’s not how things work. If you want to sell products, value yourself appropriately and lay out the terms of your trade. Don’t expect hand outs and don’t expect people to scratch your back. Be assertive. Ask!

The amazing thing is, 90% of the time, asking or asserting yourself yields positive results. In my experience, I’ve found that people are quite benevolent, and in the dating game, women are absolutely attracted to assertive, explicit showcases of interest. A friend of mine recently told me he was amazed at how many dates I’ve been on in the past few months. The reality is, it wasn’t hard. I just asked, because that’s what I want.

You’d be surprised how far you get in life when you simply understand the fact that asserting your needs and making them explicit will get you the results you want, and will also more often than not create very strong, healthy relationships that get you what you want.

Don’t hide what you want. Your needs are valid. Make that explicit.

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