Isaac Newton’s third law states that, without exception, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
What most people don’t know is that Newton’s law is a powerful behavioral algorithm that can help you get what you want, simplify relationships, and improve your life.
Let’s take a look.
Action / Reaction
While Newton’s third law was developed with physics in mind, it applies equally well to humans. In fact, reciprocation (action-reaction) is part of our biological hard-wiring.
When pushed on, we push back.
The same is true for others. The harder we push others, the harder they push back.
While this is a simple principle, it is far from simplistic. When understood, the world suddenly becomes a powerful force doing most of the work for us. When misunderstood, the world teaches us a lesson.
To unlock this behavioral algorithm, go positive and go first, with no strings attached. What happens if you walk down the street and smile at people? They smile back. What happens if you’re kind to people? They are kind back. What happens if you go out of your way to help people accomplish their goals? They go out of their way to help you accomplish your goals.
If we do the opposite instead, the world teaches us a lesson. If we are grumpy, people are grumpy back. If we take advantage of our customers, they don’t stay our customers long. If we step on other people to try and get ahead, they will step on us.
If we want to work with the world rather than against it, we need to unlock this powerful behavioral algorithm positively, never negatively.
Going positive and going first, with no strings attached, is the best way to get this powerful force working for you.
Four Types of Relationships
Only four types of relationships exist with anyone (partners, kids, customers, suppliers, etc.)
Only win-win relationships align with Newton’s third law. Every other permutation creates a situation where one party — intentionally or unintentionally — pushes back.
It can take a while to understand that with humans, not everyone who pushes back does so immediately. Sometimes, more often than not, the other person patiently waits for an opportunity.
Pushing back takes many forms — from a raised voice or a strong boundary to more subtle forms like withholding information or not helping when you could. Often you don’t even know.
The good news is that mirrored reciprocation works the other way, too.
If you are kind to someone, they are kind back. If you go out of your way to help someone, they will help you back. If you make someone look good, they will make you look good. It doesn’t always happen in the moment, but it does happen. Instead of negatively coiling someone else, you positively coil them.
The Passive Problem
Most people are passive. They wait for others to go first.
“I’ll be nice, if they are nice.”
“I wish someone would recognize my potential and give me an opportunity.”
“I’ll let it go, if they let it go.”
“If they respect me, I’ll respect them.”
To start Newtown’s law of relationships working for you, go positive and go first with no strings attached. If you do this consistently, you create an unstoppable force.
Putting it into practice?
Here are some recent examples from my life.
- When COVID first hit, I contacted many of our subcontractors and offered them extra work. I moved up projects we thought we’d do in the future so they could work now. When they offered massively discounted rates, I voluntarily increased them.
- When having a tough conversation, take the approach that you will be in a relationship with this person for the next 20 years. This changes your approach from one of ‘getting what you want’ to ‘we’re in this together and let’s figure it out.’ It’s the same approach you’d want them to take with you.
- When someone at a restaurant I was at needed medical attention, the staff yelled for a Dr. Lucikly, one was in the small crowd. They likely saved the person’s life and returned to their date. I asked the staff to give me their bill. Nearly a year later, I ended up in the doctor’s office, and they remembered my kind gesture — and my follow-up appointment went from 3 months to 6 days.
Newton’s third law reveals almost everything you need to know about human relationships and how you can get them to work for you without much work. Remember to try going positive and going first.