How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Self vs. Others preference
One of the basic social dilemmas is the extent to which we put ourselves first or whether we put other people first.
People with a 'me' focus put themselves first in all decisions where they are interacting or otherwise considering other people. Their focus is often on their sense identity which may not be strong enough to stand up without constant reassurance.
They may have a founding belief that all people are basically selfish and that the only way to succeed is to 'look after number one'.
Although they are self-centered, they may not necessarily selfish, for example they may appear moderately considerate but this is typically only done because they realize that they may be socially punished for appearing too selfish.
It is philosophically arguable that all we can do is to be self-centered because we are indeed at the 'center of the known universe'. We can thus point out that charitable acts are done because it makes us feel good. Nevertheless, there is still a difference in thinking and acting between those who focus mostly on themselves and those who focus mostly on others.
People who focus first on others believe that helping others is the best way to help themselves, although in full prosocial behavior this self-benefit consideration may be hardly considered, if at all.
Other-oriented people typically see the world as a basically good (or at least neutral) place, and that within a society and as social animals, it is our duty to help one another, and that selfishness is the root of most acts evil.
A further dimension can be seen by adding whether we have enough or not (typically money, but generally 'what we desire').
When people have little, it is not surprising that their focus is on themselves. They work hard to get the basics and have little time to spend on other people, other perhaps than their families (and even then they often have scant time available). There are many people in the world who fit broadly into this category.
When we have enough, then we can afford to be generous, giving to charity and helping others in any way that we can. Many people are like this too once they have got over the poverty barrier. This is one of the assumptions of liberal democracies.
When people have enough, sometimes they keep wanting more, or perhaps just seek to hold onto what they have. They continue to focus on themselves and may well look down on those who have less.
The altruist is less common, although not uncommon. This person has little yet still puts significant focus on other people. This is a principle preached by a number of religions, although their congregations do not always go this far.
With self-oriented people, frame persuasions in terms of the threats and benefits to them as individuals. Focus on the WIIFM factors (What's In It For Me). If they feel threatened by others, be conspiratorial and show how they can get things for themselves without others knowing.
With other-focused people, talk about threats or benefits to the group, the company or to society at large. Do not appear selfish yourself.
Bass, B.M. and Dunteman, G. "Behaviour in Groups as a Function of Self, Interaction and Task Orientation." Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology. Vol. 66, Num. 4, 1963, pp 19 – 28.
Spain, J.S., Eaton, L.G., & Funder, D.C. (2000). Perspectives on personality: The Relative accuracy of self vs. others for the prediction of behavior and emotion. Journal of Personality, 68, 837-867.
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