The Sneaker Analogy
Ok, so imagine you’re thinking it might be time to buy some new sneakers, maybe you Google a couple of different brands and stores, but nothing really catches your eye. You get served a lot of opportunistic ads online after that, but you don’t click them because you know they’re just trying to take your money and you don’t really feel like buying any sneakers right now, nor do you want any of the sneakers they’re showing you.
You carry on with your life, and then one day when you’re out in town, you see a great pair of sneakers in a store, in your size, and your favorite color. You buy them with your own money, that you earned, because you feel like it, and you take them home.
Then, the next day, you get a knock at the door. You open it, and there’s a furious looking guy stood there. You can see from his lapel badge that he’s the CEO of SneakersRUs (imagine that’s a thing). You recognize the name as one of the brands that started following you around online after you did that Google search.
He starts screaming at you.
CEO of SneakersRUs: “DIDN’T YOU SEE MY ADS? WHY DIDN’T YOU BUY MY SNEAKERS? I LITERALLY SHOWED YOU ADS EVERY DAY”
You: “Erm, yeah, I did see your ads, but I didn’t want to buy anything from you”
CEO of SneakersRUs: “WHY NOT? I HAVE SNEAKERS, YOU WANTED FUCKING SNEAKERS, WHY WOULDN’T YOU BUY MY SNEAKERS? I MADE AN AD JUST FOR YOU, AND I SHOWED IT TO YOU 15 TIMES A DAY FOR A MONTH”
You: “Yeah I know, sorry about that, it’s not personal, I just didn’t want your sneakers”,
CEO of SneakersRUs: “WHY NOT? YOU BOUGHT PURPLE ONES, I HAVE PURPLE ONES, I SHOWED YOU MY PURPLE ONES BEFORE YOU BOUGHT YOURS, I DESERVE YOUR MONEY”.
You: “I’m sorry if you’re upset, it’s just that it’s my money and I wanted to spend it on those sneakers, because I like those ones”
CEO of SneakersRUs: “BUT MINE ARE BETTER”
You: “I’m sorry, but they just weren’t for me”
CEO of SneakersRUs: “YOU SHOULD NEVER SEARCH FOR ANYTHING OR BUY ANYTHING EVER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO GIVE INNOCENT SNEAKER SALESMEN THE WRONG IDEA”
You: “Please leave”
In this scenario, the CEO of SneakerRUs is a nice guy, and you are the woman he’s being nice to. He’s been so nice, he’s put himself out there and shown her how nice he is by how nice he’s been to her, but it hasn’t ‘worked’, because she hasn’t automatically chosen to reward this niceness with her romantic affections.
This is not how being nice works. Being nice to someone isn’t being nice if it’s conditional on them giving you something in return. It’s also very confusing for the recipient of the niceness, and it can be claustrophobic and weird as well.