Gifts, bargains, and paying full price

December 28, 2011

I was thinking this afternoon about how much trouble I have with bargaining.  Jeannette (who makes necklaces for me on occasion) assumes we are bargaining — she’s from a part of the world where that is the norm.  I have trouble with that, but that’s more like awkwardness in not really knowing the unstated rules she uses.

But there’s, I think, a more interesting problem I’ve noticed.  I can decide I’m okay with buying something at the price being asked, or, in another context, I can decide (and be fine with the decision) to do something for another person without expecting or wanting something in return.  But when a situation is somewhere inbetween, I get into trouble.  Maybe it’s that a “gift,” including a donation of services or even something more nebulous like emotional support, comes out of one mind-set, and negotiating for something in return, even when initially I would have been fine without receiving anything, comes out of a different emotional orientation.  The relationship between the two scenarios comes up often enough in my life that I’m suspecting it’s one of those challenges I am being given multiple opportunities to work on.

What I am struggling with is how to take something that I could have done as a charitable gift and do it as a bargain I’m not especially comfortable with.  The interaction is clearly different, the kind of participation is clearly different.  Why is it that accepting half a loaf sometimes feels worse than eschewing any part of a loaf?  There’s probably a simple answer to this, but apparently I’m not there yet, much less arriving at a perspective that makes this kind of shift acceptable.

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