A First Step to Reallocating Social Wealth Investments in Family & Friends

United States Office Of War Information, Liberman, Howard, photographer. Posting ceiling prices in foreign languages. Charles Ruggiero, clerk in a grocery
store in New York’s Italian section, wishes the handful of spaghetti he is breaking were Mussolini’s neck. The ceiling price sign above his head, written in
Italian, is helping to defeat Il Duce by controlling inflation, one of America’s most dangerous enemies. United States New York New York State, 1942. July.
Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017693836/.

Cultivating social wealth requires, at a minimum, an investment of your time and energy into a relationship with another person. If your initial investment in another person is well received and returned, then the social wealth of you and the other person increases. Regular reinvestment into the relationship only compounds the value of the social wealth built over time. This formula is so basic that my 5-year-old has been able to effortlessly develop a dear friendship with a produce clerk in his 60s at our local, big chain grocery store. Through their relationship the clerk imparts a sense of community belonging and good nutritional habits for our little one and gains insights about what someone his grandson’s age is interested in talking about. Each time they interact, it is easy to see the value of their social wealth increase. The continual reinvestment in their relationship is what enables them both to maintain and grow their social wealth. While my hope is that we should all be so fortunate as to receive such returns on our own investments in social wealth, the reality is that there are times that we might want or need to pause our investments.

Taking a pause in cultivating a relationship might be attributed to personal disagreements, distance, or unhealthy habits to name a few. Evaluating when to pause our investments aimed at preserving or building our social wealth with certain individuals or groups of people, however, can be difficult. This issue is compounded further if you have been investing in relationships for years with little or diminishing social wealth returns. At various times, when my wife and I have had to consider pausing or scaling down the time and energy we devote to family members and friends close to us, our decisions were frequently guided by our reflections and responses to a set of questions. To help you begin to determine if reallocating your current social wealth investment in family and friends continues to makes sense, I have included some of the questions we use below.

Is this relationship a priority for all those involved and what evidence supports these thoughts?

Gardner, Alexander, photographer. Antietam, Md. Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln, and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand; another view. United States
Maryland Antietam, 1862. October 3. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2018666255/.

Being a part of an ongoing relationship, whether as a parent, sibling, co-worker, or friend, requires some reoccurring investment of time, energy, or other available resources. To begin evaluating whether a relationship is a priority for you, look at what and how you have invested in a relationship over an extended period of time. Any patterns of continual reinvestment in the relationship on your part illustrates that cultivating your social wealth is a priority for you. Alternatively, the lack of a pattern or haphazard reinvestment might indicate any one of the following: a certain relationship is not a priority, the cultivation of social wealth in general is not being actively pursued by you, or there are existing barriers that frequently limit your efforts to nurture a particular relationship.

Once you have determined if the relationship is a priority for you, then you should consider whether the relationship is a priority for others involved in the relationship. Complete this evaluation even if you have already determined this particular relationship is or is not a priority for you. Doing so can reveal why people or groups have chosen to make or not make you a priority. These insights can be useful in the future when trying to cultivate your social wealth with other individuals and groups that you have had difficult with connecting to in the past or moving the relationship to the next level or in a different direction.

A final part of determining whether a relationship is a priority for all those involved is to examine the quality of the time, energy, and resources being allocated to the relationship. The quality of time, energy, and resources we share with others is a reflection of the value we place on a relationship and, by extension, how much a particular relationship contributes to our overall social wealth. For example, if family members or friends seem frequently distracted, on their phones, or not interested in connecting with you during online or face-to-face conversations, then the quality of the time you share is be viewed as not contributing to the cultivation of social wealth for anyone. Therefore, if you want to cultivate social wealth consistently over time, then commit to devoting the high quality of the inputs necessary to sustaining and growing a relationship.  Unlike quantity, the quality of time, energy, and resources we share with others is not easily manufactured and retains value over time, making it a key indicator of what level of priority the relationship is granted by all those involved.

What values do you place on what is lost and gained if you were to suspend reinvestment in a particular relationship?

Bain News Service, Publisher. Fishing Thru Ice. , ca. 1910. [Between and Ca. 1915] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2014690025/.

Take a few moments to imagine how different your daily life would be if you chose to no longer put in any effort to maintain a particular relationship. How might your social wealth be affected? A potential consequence might be that the relationship would slowing fade away or end leaving a potential void in your life and in the lives of those involved in the relationship. For some, this occurrence can be a blessing in disguise as you come to realize that a certain relationship you have been investing in is draining your social wealth and the wealth of those around you or is costing too much to maintain for everyone involved. For others, you might find that the loss of a particular relationship has too many negative effects on your social wealth or your investments in a specific relationship yields outsized returns that continue to be a source of sustained growth for multiple types of wealth you are cultivating. Whatever insights you gain from this thought exercise will provide you with indications as to whether suspending reinvestment in a particular relationship for a period of time makes sense.

If your insights indicate that suspending your reinvestments make sense, then go for it. Although this decision may be difficult, particularly if it involves relationships with once close family members or individuals and groups that you have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources into, the benefits can be significant over time. The benefits can include opportunities to: reallocate your time, energy, and resources into other relationships that you want to improve and grow; reduce the emotional stress, guilt, or pressure you may feel on a regular basis while working to maintain a particular relationship; and cultivate other types of wealth using the time, energy, and resources you once devoted an unfruitful relationship. In rare instances, you may find that your pullback of investments in a particular area of your social wealth prompts others to take notice and reallocate their own time, energy, and resources to preserve and/or grow the relationship. While this change may be welcomed, make sure that the underlying relationship still makes sense to include in your social wealth portfolio over the long-term.

Make a conscious effort to cultivate your social wealth

Like any other type of wealth, your social wealth needs to be consciously maintained and evaluated from time to time. When your relationships are strong and healthy, this type of wealth can be bountiful and enable you to cultivate other types of wealth (e.g. financial, health, intellectual). Not all relationships, however, are equal and some are worth preserving and growing more than others. My hope is that the above questions help you determine when it may be time to reallocate your time, energy, and resources to those relationships and areas of your life that contribute to the collective social wealth we build with each other. As my 5-year-old and his 60+ grocer friend have demonstrated, the process of deciding where to reinvest your social wealth is not complicated at any age but it does require effort. So take a moment right now to identify those relationships that may not be contributing to your social wealth and to figure out if it might be time to consider a reallocation of your time, energy, and resources.

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