Category Archives: Rich vs. Poor Series

Have Better Conversations

Politeness is a measure of wealth. If people treat you well, you tend to treat others well. If people treat you badly, you tend to treat others badly.

People aggregate around what is familiar and comfortable. So people who treat each other badly find each other and continue the cycle of abuse. People who treat each other well find each other and continue the wealth inequality.

the conversation topic and the perspective on the world and the emotions displayed express your wealth.

topic: work stress vs vacation plans. Poor people complain about how work sucks. Rich people talk about all the opportunities they’re considering for vacation.

perspective: out of control, blame others vs in control, decision difficulty. Poor people talk about coping with problems caused by other people. Rich people talk about making decisions that affect other people.

emotions: needing validation so fixating on details vs healthy so jumping from topic to topic without emotional attachment or triggers. Poor people want to be heard and understood: they seek empathy. Rich people want their problems fixed: they seek solutions.

SF Chinatown 2019

Reduce Stress through Reframing. Rich vs. Poor: Views on Bureaucracy

Nobody likes waiting in line, but some people can do it without wasting emotions and energy by getting angry. They do this by avoiding personalization and blaming and false mind reading.

When a rich person goes to bureaucracy, they usually have these assumptions

  • The system is here to serve me
  • I will get served
  • I deserve to get served
  • They must serve me because I am entitled to the service
  • I have power to complain and ensure that I get the service
  • I will be fine without the service

And so most of their anger (if any) is centered around entitlement, and most of their calmness and peace is also centered around entitlement.


When a poor person goes to bureaucracy, they usually have these assumptions

  • The system is set up by someone else for their own reasons that weren’t necessarily for my benefit.
  • I just happen to qualify, maybe I will get served.
  • Or I don’t qualify, and I hope they don’t notice.
  • I don’t deserve service, but I hope I do get service
  • I am not entitled to the service, it’s not guaranteed.
  • If they refuse service I have no way of forcing them to give me service, I’m powerless. I’m weak and afraid.
  • If I don’t get this service, I’ll be much worse off because 1. I need this service 2. I don’t have much so 3. it costs me a lot to be here waiting for the service. So much so that I may not have much left–waiting in line costs so much energy and health and resources that I can’t afford to not be served.

And so most of their anger comes from the fear of being worse off, the fear of being not served, the fear of the humiliation of being refused service, and the fear of the realization of how weak and powerless they really are.


To overcome these emotions, you need to reframe the situation. Think about it this way:

  • The system is out of your control
  • The system is not human. Even though you’re interacting with people who operate within the system, the people obey the commands of the system. The system lives by using the people.  Bureaucracy is not people, it’s a system.
  • Systems do not persecute individuals. There’s nothing in the system that says for you and you alone, you cannot get service. The system has rules that are general. For example, the system might say that anyone who has blue hair cannot get service. So if you have blue hair you don’t get service. If this happens, don’t personalize it. It’s not just you, it was unlucky that it was about your blue hair.
  • If you have connections or can make insider connections to get special treatment, realize that you are no longer dealing with a system or a bureaucracy, but you’re dealing with the specific individual and their power over the system.  What this means is: it only matters if it works, and if it doesn’t, don’t dwell on the person’s failure, just realize you’re going to be served by the system, and the system gives no special treatment. No special good, and no special bad.

If you can accept that the system of bureaucracy is a mindless organization outside of your control, then there’s less to be angry about.  All you need to know is time will be spent waiting for your service, and you can spend that time tiring yourself out with anger, or you can spend that time in a better way that is up to your choosing.

  • If the system does not serve you, it’s not neglect.  A lot of people were neglected by their parents, friends, etc. and so when they’re waiting for service, the act of not being served can trigger feelings of neglect.  Don’t fall for this. The system has not singled you out for neglect. It’s a random act with no biases: systems do not target individuals, they target groups of people.  So don’t take it personally as neglect. It’s not.


I also want to point out entitlement is a key reason why communism and capitalism lead to very different mental healths for the population. In Communism, everyone knows they’re supposed to get something so there’s some peace in that. It might be widely unequal what they get compared to others, but everyone knows they’re supposed to get something and there’s comfort in that.  In Capitalism, everyone knows they’re supposed to get nothing. You get nothing unless you earn it somehow.  There’s no peace, because earning is a competition, supply and demand, market forces outside your control dictating whether you can sell your services or not.  There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty in capitalism that leads to unhealthy mental states.

Read more about articles in the Rich vs. Poor Series here.

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Rich Vs. Poor: Rich can focus their efforts, Poor have to diversify their investments

When you’re rich, the opportunities presented to you are of higher quality. You can buy a toy that can last a year because you can pay for the quality. When you’re poor, the toy you can afford is likely already broken, or will be broken within a few days of you playing with it.

This extrapolates into clothing, jobs, friends, etc.  Rich people have better options, so they need fewer of them to survive. If you know your knife is always going to cut through your food, and you can invest in a knife sharpening kit and a good knife cover and case, then you only need one knife.  If you don’t have a case, you don’t have a sharpener, and you don’t have a good knife that works all the time, then you need many knives so that if one doesn’t work you can try a different knife.

The same idea comes with friends.
If you have one friend who you know you can reliably count on to take care of you in any situation, then you just need that one friend.
If you have 5 situations and each friend can only take care of one situation, but they can reliably take care of the situation they are good at, then you just need 5 friends.
If your friend is not guaranteed to be available at all times, then you need back up friends in case you need help in a situation, but the friend you have for that situation is busy.

The less reliable your tools, the more tools you need.  The more tools you need, the more effort and energy you have to spend to buy and maintain those tools, and the less energy and time you have to invest in yourself or in growth or in other things.  As a result, the poor suffer from having to be inefficient in their investments, and they suffer from having to have huge redundancies and huge diversity in their portfolio that brings down their overall returns, and they suffer from not having to opportunity to focus their energies on a few things. That lack of focus basically ensures that they will never achieve something great, and will remain poor.
It is quite cruel for the rich to say that the poor are poor due to lack of focus, when the poor do not have the opportunity at all to choose focus without at the same time choosing risk.  Focus on one friend and if that one friend fails, there’s no-one else. Rich people don’t have this problem: their one friend (say health insurance with priority everything) is much more reliable and won’t fail (like a limited HMO health insurance that has no-doctors in network near you).

Read more about articles in the Rich vs. Poor Series here.

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