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Are You a “Love Cycler™” or a “Clicker™?”

written by David J. Pollay 2 February 2009

David J. Pollay, MAPP '06, is a co-founder of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). David has an Economics degree from Yale University and has held leadership positions at Yahoo!, MasterCard, Global Payments and AIESEC. He is an Executive Coach who specializes in business relationships. He is also an author and keynote speaker known for his best-selling books, The Law of the Garbage Truck (how to navigate negativity) and The 3 Promises (how to create personal fulfillment every day). David's articles are here. For permission to reprint David's articles, please contact him.

Recently Dawn and I were asked two interesting questions.  One person asked, “Your parents do so much for you guys; why do you think they are so giving?”  We accepted her question as a compliment and tribute to our wonderful parents.   

A couple weeks later, someone asked the second question:  “You and Dawn do a lot for your parents; how come you do so much for them?”  We appreciated this question too; it warmly recognized what Dawn and I try to do for our parents.  We love our parents very much and want to help make their lives easier and more enjoyable. 

love-cycleLove Cycling

Until recently I held these questions separately in my mind.  I now see they are part of the same question.  Why do we all do so much for each other?  The answer is that we are in what I call a “Love Cycle.”   A Love Cycle happens when people in a relationship do not know who started doing what for whom; they only know that there is constant giving and receiving in the relationship.  The love expressed and the good works done on each other’s behalf happen so often that there’s no purpose in keeping score.  People in a Love Cycle are what I call “Love Cyclers™.” 


A friend of mine once had a temporary job counting cars at a busy intersection in New York City.  He had to “click his clicker” every time a vehicle of any kind passed by.  Although my friend almost lost his mind doing this job, he said he really had to focus so that he could keep clicking. Many people in life walk around with their own clickers counting the number of things that people do for them.  These people don’t want to give more than they get.  They click because they do not trust.  They spend valuable time clicking versus cycling the giving in a relationship.  They are not “Love Cyclers” they are “Clickers.” 

So, are you a Love Cycler™ or a Clicker™? 

Love Cycling in marriage 
Here’s the easiest way to reorient your thinking to the Love Cycle.  Let’s take typical marriage vows as an example:  to love, honor, and cherish.  “Clickers” sit and wait for their spouse to “love, honor, and cherish them.”  “What have you done for me lately?” is the question they ask themselves before they reach out to their spouse.  Love Cyclers don’t wait; they just love, honor, and cherish their spouses. 

University of Washington psychology researcher, John Gottman, discovered in his research that couples who keep score in their relationships are unhappy in their marriage.  Gottman reports in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, “Happy spouses do not keep tabs on whether their mate is washing dishes as a payback because they cooked dinner.  They do it because they generally feel positive about their spouse and their relationship.” 

Love Cycling at work 
Good leaders are Love Cyclers.  They set the tone at work with their actions.  They give, they offer, and they help.  They tell stories of people helping them and supporting them.  You see them volunteer.  On the other hand, Clickers talk about who hasn’t helped them, who owes them, who’s giving them a hard time, and who they don’t like.  The bottom line is that Clickers are so busy clicking that they are not loving. 

Jim Harter, Frank Schmidt, and Corey Keyes, three Positive Psychology researchers found that, “daily occurrences that bring about joy, interest, and love (or caring) lead to a bonding of individuals to each other, their work, and their organization.”  When managers “pay attention and respond to each unique individual they manage, the daily experiences lead to higher frequency of joy, interest, and love (or caring) among their employees.” 

The bottom line is that Love Cyclers make better bosses and better spouses.  So, when you go to work today, and when you go home tonight, think about leaving your clicker behind.   Be a Love Cycler™.  

Personal note: In honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share my essay with you, Are You a Love Cycler™ or a Clicker™?. I hope it helps bring even more joy to your relationships.

I’m currently in New York City working on the publishing of my first book, Beware of Garbage Trucks!™. I’ll be sure to let you know when we have a release date scheduled. Thanks so much for your support!

Copyright 2007 by David J. Pollay


Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (2000). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Keyes, C. L. M. (2003). Well-being in the workplace and its relationship to business outcomes. C. L. M. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing, The positive person and the good life, 205-224. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Added later:

Grant, A. (2013). Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. Viking Press.

Pollay, D. J. (2010). The Law of the Garbage Truck: How to Respond to People Who Dump on You, and How to Stop Dumping on Others. Sterling Press.

Rooster cycle courtesy of tiny froglet
Clicker courtesy of DWZ

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Chris 2 February 2009 - 11:42 am

A fantastic reminder this morning, David. It’s easy sometimes to fall into the habit of walking around like an accountant, keeping track of what everyone has done for you vs. what you have done for them. I live in Washington, D.C., and sometimes it feels like this city might be the epicenter of that mentality! The best relationships I have are ones in which I give without keeping track, and others do the same for me.

Sean Glass 2 February 2009 - 12:50 pm

Great article! Another person who expounds a similar viewpoint is Keith Ferazzi – author of “Never Eat Alone” – the key to having relationships is there is no quid pro quo… I love your way of making this clear and memorable… “Don’t be a clicker”… I may have to blog on that 🙂 Hope to catch up sometime soon.

Margaret 2 February 2009 - 1:09 pm

David, I love your notion of cyclers versus clickers. My Grandmother’s advice for a happy marriage was “never keep score” — then everyone wins. Neal & I celebrate our 25th next month 🙂

David J. Pollay 2 February 2009 - 4:40 pm

Thanks, Chris!

You make a great point about how politics often works. There is no doubt a desire to see that change – to see more of a focus on determining what is best and working together to get there. And Chris, your family and friends are lucky to have you.

Best to you,

David J. Pollay 2 February 2009 - 4:41 pm

Hi Sean,

Great to hear from you! I remember Keith working his relationship magic back in college (I was one year ahead of him). Thanks for the support as always Sean. I look forward to seeing you in person soon.

Best to you,

David J. Pollay 2 February 2009 - 4:41 pm

Hi Margaret!

25 years! That’s awesome. Neal’s a great guy, and your daughters are wonderful. You are a love cycling family. Your grandmother was a great role model. And you know I think you are “abundance” on earth.


Christine Duvivier 2 February 2009 - 4:49 pm

David, Thanks for reminding me of the interplay of relationships — personal and professional. In the midst of daily pressures it’s so easy to notice when someone lets you down — and so rewarding to have a random, scoreless give-and-take. Good luck with your book!
Best wishes,

David J. Pollay 3 February 2009 - 12:21 am

Hi Christine!

You capture the spirit of the essay so well: It’s so much more rewarding when we give without a scoreboard. And thanks for the good wishes, Christine!

Best to you,


Max 3 February 2009 - 8:23 pm

Thanks David for this wonderful essay. We try to follow your message in our family. “Love Cycler” says it all. Max

jd 3 February 2009 - 9:45 pm

I’m a clicker and a cycler depending on the relationship, Dave, though by nature I’m way cycler.

Lil 4 February 2009 - 2:00 am

Hi David,
Thanks for your essay. And A Happy Valentine’s Day to you! You have the capacity to educate and to inspire. I learn so very much from your writings. Being a “Love Cycler” is contagious. Thanks David, Lil

David J. Pollay 4 February 2009 - 2:06 am

Thanks, Max! Good for your family! I send my best to you.


David J. Pollay 4 February 2009 - 2:07 am

Thanks JD for the comment. And keep nourishing your nature!

Best to you,

David J. Pollay 4 February 2009 - 2:08 am

And Happy Valentine’s Day to you too, Lil! Thanks for your kind note.

Best to you,


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