“Noisy” Neighbors Influence Your Behavior

Shut out the noise. Do not try to keep up with others or be negatively influenced. It is about you.

We’ve all done it. We’ve all compared ourselves to others. Sometimes it’s to boost our morale by boasting about our own accomplishments. Other times, we may feel a sense of jealousy over possessions we don’t have. Regardless of what drives these unhealthy comparisons, one thing is true, this type of behavior can lead to unhappiness and low self-esteem. Emotionally, we may become frustrated with ourselves for not getting the attention we feel we deserve or insecure that we may not be “good enough.” 

So why do we create these types of toxic comparisons? It’s not only unhealthy behavior, it also depletes your life energies, which includes your Money Energy. What that means is, you are “shortchanging” your personal growth and development.

Behavioral Variability Versus Behavioral Bias

The landmark book, Noise,1 outlines how behavioral variability is equally as detrimental as behavioral bias. Biases are irrational beliefs or behaviors that can unconsciously influence our decision-making process, but they are behaviors that are consistently observed. In other words, these errors in judgment all follow the same pattern. We can see what type of error each bias has on our decisions. (Like everyone throwing darts and missing the target but falling on the same area of the dartboard.) Noise is more closely related to behavioral variability on a very individual level, and it’s more random. (Picture the darts still missing the target, but they are all over the board.) And this concept has been less studied…until now. This distinction is important because comparing yourself with others can be a source of that noise.

Overcoming Negative Influences

As a case study, let’s review one of the most common forms of behavioral variability. There is a type of noise that we observe in couples who are obsessed with a neighbor’s financial well-being versus their own. I’m talking about the risks of comparison behavior that could not only potentially impact your relationship to a marriage, but also to a business and your Money Energy potential.

Jude and Lizzie Hunter are both aged 47 with two children in private school. Fortunately, both completed the DNA Natural Behavior Discovery some years prior. What we learned was Jude is an Influencer who has a unique blend of confidence, initiative, and people skills. He’s a visionary and a great communicator. In his profession as a lawyer, he is aligned to his behavioral style.  In fact, his communication skills, above all, have fast-tracked his legal career.

Lizzie, on the other hand, is described as an Engager and enjoys new people, situations, and environments. She is skillful at building relationships and approaches situations enthusiastically, especially when passionate about the outcomes. She’s a real estate agent and her behavioral style is also well-aligned to her profession.

Six months ago, Jude was given partnership in the law firm where he was employed, and both he and Lizzie leveraged the additional income to move into a new home in a more upscale community.  Of course, Lizzie’s career in real estate helped land them a gem of a house!

They quickly became involved with their community in this new gated housing complex. They became members of the adjoining golf club and enjoyed a welcome to the community brunch with a new neighbor. After admiring the style of the neighbor’s home, both Lizzie and Jude strongly desired to do extensive renovations of their own home.

Lizzie took charge of the renovation activities, but perhaps they took things too far without proper planning and budgeting. Jude, entirely distracted by the increased responsibilities of his new role, took his eye off the financial ball until one day, less than a year later, he defaulted on his golf club membership. 

For the first time in a long while, and shocked that something like this could even be possible, he looked closely at their finances only to find that they were in deep debt. Lizzie had ordered the finest fabrics for curtains and the most beautiful Italian tiles for flooring. He was also thinking lavishly by insisting that the pool be extended, and the pool house upgraded.

Jude sat quietly, recalling the many conversations he and Lizzie had with neighbors admiring their homes, cars, club memberships, and kids' schools. Not once had they stopped to realize the financial and psychological damage they were creating in their lives. As he and Lizzie interacted with others, they judged and compared them with themselves. Clearly, on some level, they believed they had fallen short in the comparison resulting in the financial and emotional state they now found themselves in.

This is a form of behavioral variability known as occasion noise (a term from the book, Noise, mentioned earlier). This is when all features of a situation or decision remain the same as previous occurrences, yet your judgment differs. Some type of recent exposure alters your decision-making. I’m sure the couple had an established mindset of what their new home would have or not have. They knew that living near neighbors with greater wealth may equate to a home with finer things, but when they were physically exposed to those greater material surroundings did it prompt them to behave differently?

There are consequences to social comparison.

Leon Festinger, an American social psychologist, along with many psychologists, believes that the process of social comparison is driven by our need to evaluate ourselves regularly – and that it applies similarly in males and females. His research also suggests that women tend to engage in social comparisons more than men.

Social comparisons in women can lead to feelings of not measuring up, which can lead to negative self-appraisals and depression. Festinger originated the theory of cognitive dissonance and social comparison theory. Between the brain and the heart, it processes what it sees and offers a reward. It’s when your inner voice is saying, ‘you can have the same as them.’ This deception can potentially lead to a world of emotional and financial pain.

It took the couple two years to recover financially from occasion noise. Fortunately, they had the sense to seek not only financial advice, but also behavioral advice in the form of a DNA Natural Behavior Discovery to learn what in their behavior had led them down this road of comparison and deception. They uncovered a range of behaviors not previously understood such as fear, lack of confidence, and little attention to their health. 

What about yourself? Is comparing your life to others causing you to ignore the good things in your life and focus on what you don’t have?

Related: Make Love, Not War…With Your Money