What is Fair Exchange?

Fair exchange seems to be a topic that a lot of people struggle with. So let’s start with the basics, what is fair exchange?

Fair exchange is the giving of a product or service while receiving a fair reward. The ‘fair reward’ isn’t necessarily money (although it could be). You can exchange a product for a service, a service for a service, a product for a product, etc. As long as the two things being exchanged are the same in value. And fair exchange isn’t just related to business, it also impacts our relationships, social dynamics, family dynamics, pretty much all areas of life.

There are two ways that people violate fair exchange:


When you try to take something for nothing you will eventually lose. Let’s say you’re in a business relationship and you’re trying to get the most money out of your client. Your service costs $500 but you know your client has a large budget so you charge $800 instead. But your service isn’t worth $800, it’s worth $500. The client agrees and you get to work. Eventually the client will start to feel they’re not getting the value they paid for. They’ll notice they’re not in fair exchange – they gave more than they received. The relationship is now at risk and unless you find a way to provide $300 worth of more value, things will not end well for you.

Think about the times you felt like you paid too much for something. How did you feel? How did the relationship end up?


Many people want to give without receiving in the name of altruism. What’s really happening is they have some deep rooted guilt and low self-worth. Giving without recieving will end just as badly as taking without giving. People tend to value things they pay for more than things they get for free, so when you offer services for free, people will automatically under value you. We’ve all been in a relationship or friendship where we give, give, give without getting anything in return. We try to comfort ourselves by saying “oh, I don’t expect anything in return, I’m doing it out of love.” But what you’re left with is a lopsided relationship where you’ve built up a lot of resentment towards the other person.

“Trying to altruistically give something for nothing or narcissistically take something for nothing is unsustainable.”
-Dr. John Demartini

I encourage you to look at your life and see where you are not in fair exchange and find ways to restore the balance.


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