Among friends, knowing less about a topic presents a unique opportunity — it gives them a chance to bond and learn from their differences.
Asma Hunaid, a Pakistani consultant based in Sharjah, said: “Asymmetry of information doesn’t necessarily have to negatively affect a friendship. It’s important to be secure enough in a relationship, to be okay with being less knowledgeable and take that as an opportunity to learn from the other person.”
Hunaid’s friend, Eman Asad, a British national based in Sharjah, agreed and said that information asymmetry can be advantageous to a friendship.
Sometimes, the asymmetry can cause insecurities, however Hunaid said that being open to admitting to not knowing everything, helps maintain a healthy relationship. The friends said that asymmetry of information can strengthen their bond.
Asad said: “Both people in a relationship hold more knowledge about entirely different topics. Some may have educational information, others may be street smart. It is important that their differences complement each other. I don’t think it should make the other person feel less important.”
Christian Haefke, the head of the economics department at New York University Abu Dhabi, confirmed that asymmetry exists in all friendships. But, if it were to be used to deceive a friend, how would it affect the relationship?
He said: “As a parent, you might decide to never punish your child. But, if the child does something wrong, do you punish him or her? The glass is already broken. If you know it is a one-time thing, as a rational person, you might let it go. With friends, it is the same. If I see my trust was abused, I have to decide whether it is worth the punishment.”
When the damage is done and one party decides to break off the friendship, he or she could just be adding to the problem. This may or may not be what an individual wants to do.
In Haefke’s opinion, trust is the most important thing between friends. You need to analyse why your friend is doing something or behaving in a certain way. Similar to a scenario wherein a salesperson at a car showroom would sell you a vehicle at a higher price, based on their knowledge, a friend could use his or her knowledge to influence or manipulate the other.
He said: “It could be because they have other information or because they are trying to manipulate you. If we interact very often, like friends do, I would think twice before I fool someone. So, apart from transparency, trust is necessary and is one way of reducing the effects of using asymmetric information.”
— The writer is an intern with Gulf News.