How Odd Couples Can Get What They Both Want

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We love to celebrate a weird pairing — two strange people butting heads and secretly enjoying it the whole time. Mulder and Scully. Turner and Hooch. Seth Rogen and basically any woman. There's a reason it's a popular trope: Anyone who's ever had to choose a restaurant in a group with strong opinions knows this well.


A group of psychologists wanted to figure out the dynamics of these compromises, and they've just published a study with their findings. In short, not only do opposites attract, but they also provide the perfect roadmap to getting along. The researchers teamed up participants based on whether they behaved altruistically or selfishly. Those who observed their partner's orientation and approached a decision in the opposite manner produced the best outcomes for both parties.

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"When you see that your partner is acting selfishly, it is better to let it go and act altruistically instead," said co-author Hristina Nikolova in a press release. "Let them make the decision, because this will ultimately ensure a better outcome for you than if you act selfishly too."


Basically, an altruistic partner is at least somewhat happy with what a selfish partner wants. "Thus, regardless of who drives the decision, both partners are likely to reach a joint decision that is relatively preferred by both of them," Nikolova said. Having two selfish partners try to negotiate with each other only winds up with both parties unhappy: "The two selfish partners trade rejected offers until they land on an option that is further down both of their preference lists but is deemed acceptable by both partners."

Keep this in mind the next time you're having trouble agreeing on something with a partner, family member or friend. It could make everyone happier much quicker than you both thought.