Survival of the Friendliest
Darwin said the fittest survive, but what kind of fitness counts most? Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, researchers at Duke University’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, believe species that have thrived and successfully reproduced haven’t done it by beating up the competition.
Their new book, “Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity,” posits that species endure — humans, other animals and plants — based on friendliness, partnership and communication.
“Dogs are exhibit A,” Hare says. “They are the extremely friendly descendants of wolves. They were attracted to humans and became friendly to humans, and changed their behavior, appearance and developmental makeup. Sadly, their close relative, the wolf, is threatened and endangered in the few places where they live, whereas there are hundreds of millions of dogs…”
The authors also point to the success of bonobos, apes that are often confused with chimpanzees. Chimps make war, but bonobos are natural sharers. “The most successful bonobo males have more offspring than the most successful alpha male chimpanzees.”
What does all this mean for us? For humans to continue to evolve successfully, Hare says, “friendliness is the winning strategy. Social problems require social solutions. The secret to our species’ success is the same as it is with dogs and bonobos. We are the friendliest human species that ever evolved, which has allowed us to outcompete other human species that are now extinct. When that mechanism is turned off, we can become unbelievably cruel. When it is turned on, it allows us to win. We win by cooperation and teamwork. Our uniquely human skills for cooperative communication can be used to solve the hardest social problems.”
Can you recall a time when friendliness helped you get ahead? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
9/15/2020 10:58:32 am
When did friendliness help me succeed and unfriendliness not? On a tradeshow shuttle, struck up conversation with an attendee who, as it happened, was at the event searching for the exact products that my company offered. We chatted about their project and what they were looking for and how the product would be used. By the time we left the shuttle, we had an appointment time to meet in our booth so I could show what I thought would work.
9/15/2020 11:31:47 am
Amazing how listening, friendliness, and persuasion are inextricably linked. People waste more time trying to talk someone into their point of view when really they should be listening. This is why we titled our most recent book “Be Quiet Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.” Recently we chose another vendor for a project because even while he seemed quite knowledgeable, he gave us little opportunity to speak. We left the interaction feeling unheard and unsatisfied and moved on to the next vendor… just like you did. Thanks for sharing your insights with our community.
9/16/2020 11:35:51 am
Hello Glasers, hope you are surviving the smoke (and the rest of the plagues--I am personally awaiting the locust swarms)...
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