Dear Balance Theory, Please Help Me Like My Co-Worker.

–Megan Little

Hinders Balance Theory uses a triangle like approach to how relationships work in a balanced or imbalanced way. Hinder claims that when a situation is unbalanced it causes tension in our brain that we desire to fix in order to function, although the text expresses that attitude change is not always the reaction that will happen.
The triangle works like this: at the top point is you (P) and the left corner is the subjected person (O). Then the subject of your attitude is on the right corner (X). The way you feel about the subjected person is then described as P+/-O, the way you feel toward the subject of your attitude is P+/-X and the way the other person feels towards that subject is described at O+/-X. The understanding of the balance theory is that you would make the triangle as balanced as possible.
For example: I am P. The subject is a co-worker, let’s call her Jane for this example. P-O is Megan-Jane, meaning I have a negative attitude toward her, but I love coffee, and so does she…. P+X where X=coffee. O+X where X=coffee. So basically, I like coffee, she likes coffee, but I don’t like her. Hinder would describe this situation as one that is unbalanced.
There are two ways to make this a balanced equation. One is for me to change my relationships to a different sign. I choose to actually not like coffee, or I choose to like Jane. Another is that I can reason that Jane doesn’t actually like coffee, she likes having a job, and it just so happens to be at a coffee shop and she’s lying because what barista shouldn’t like coffee. Or I could say that she likes the over sugared mochas, and that is not coffee. Thus balancing the equation.
This relates to real life in that Jane and I work together. I can feel the tension of our dislike and when the store is busy communication goes down, and we are not effective workers. Being a communication major, I typically hate that I cannot communicate with someone, and when assessing the situation in order to be able to work (which of my 7 shifts in the past two weeks, five of them have been with her). So I looked to the balance equations to find enough common things that cam make me change my P-O to a P+O. We both like the similar movies and we both like coffee. In fact we actually attempted to hang out once, and I found myself considering that maybe the only reason I want to like her is in order to balance the equation. I have plenty of friends who do not like the same movies as me, and don’t like coffee either, but I don’t get rid of them because of those things, so why should I add someone to my friend list because of coffee? Ultimately that is where the balance equation fails. It assumes that we like to live in balance over unbalance in all situations. Sometimes life offers more variables than 2 that need to be used in an equation. You can love a class but hate a teacher, you can love a teacher but hate a class. Not all equations have to be balanced. In terms of my co-worker, Jane is a great person, but an awful worker, and more often than not I find me convincing myself that she likes coffee, she isn’t really this bad. It just hasn’t stuck yet.

-Megan Little

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