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Decision Making When Others Are Involved
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Some of us have no problem whatsoever with making decisions when those decisions affect us alone. But we might have a problem with making decisions when others are involved, either as the people responsible for effecting the decisions or as the people affected by the decisions. The clarity we have when we're deciding for ourselves alone transforms, as if by magic, into a fog of anxieties and worries: what if people don't agree with the decision? What if we hurt someone with what we decide? What if our decision reflects poorly on us in the eyes of the others?
This lessening of clarity isn't entirely a bad thing. Involving other people in our decisions does complicate our decision-making process with several additional factors, and we do have an obligation to take responsibility, to some extent, for other people's well-being. But too often, a little bit of consideration snowballs into an avalanche of self-doubt and hesitation, even outright ambivalence. At its worst, this can turn into a refusal to decide anything at all. Our admittedly noble impulse not to cause anyone harm can turn, if we let it, into avoidant thinking.
And this kind of avoidant thinking in response to dealing with other people can easily create worse problems. This has to do with the negative effects of avoidant thinking on the body and mind. According to the theory behind neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), our minds process positive statements much more efficiently than they do negative ones. When we hear a negative statement - for example, "I don't want to cause anyone harm" - we focus our attention on two points: the primary idea of causing people harm, and the secondary idea of avoiding or negating the primary idea. But the lion's share of our attention is reserved for the primary idea. Since we have a concrete image of the primary idea but no concrete image of the secondary idea (how can anyone picture "negation"?), we become preoccupied with the question of hurting people, rather than thinking about how best to deal with people as a positive alternative.
Since negative thinking involves a focus on the outcome to be avoided without a corresponding positive plan for avoiding that outcome, we start to develop free-floating anxieties and worries. This often leads to chronic stress, which leads in short order to various problems with both physical and mental health. And these problems, in turn, make the prospect of involving other people in our decisions seem profoundly unattractive. One of the less-frequently discussed consequences of chronic stress is the emotional fallout on friends, family, lovers, and other systems of emotional support. If our source of stress is other people in the first place, the problem becomes much more acute, and we soon find ourselves pushing other people away. Since we have no problem deciding things on our own, we might figure that we don't have anything to lose by cutting other people out of the equation. And ultimately, we might find ourselves alone.
We might wish to avoid bringing harm to the people involved in our decisions - people we care about. But if that wish becomes an overriding pattern of thought, it can result in our removing those people we care about from our lives entirely. It can, in short, do immeasurable harm to those people that we're trying, however negatively, to protect.
A far better option is to treat our decisions involving other people in positive terms. Another fundamental NLP idea, the well-formed outcome, involves an approach to decision-making that takes into account the mind's preference for concrete, positive goals and intentions. If we think in positive terms, we can think more clearly about what we intend for the future, and how our friends, family, co-workers, and other people we know will fit into that future.
But isn't this just managing other people's futures? It is, if we just assume that we know best how to order other people's lives. A far better tactic, though - and one fundamental to relating meaningfully with other people - is to actually talk to the people involved in our decisions about what they might want. If we talk to the people involved, then we can open up our decision process to include input from others, and we can use that input to collaboratively shape a well-formed outcome that both parties can approve of. Rather than deciding for others or trying to avoid bringing others to any harm - which is ultimately another, negatively-expressed form of deciding for others - we can talk with others, in concrete terms, about goals and intentions.
If we freeze up when trying to make decisions while other people are involved, it's often because on some level, we don't take those other people seriously as fellow decision-makers - or as equals. We want to take care of them, rather than taking their input into account. But if we invite others into our decision process, we do take them seriously - and we take the best possible care of them, and of ourselves.
Generative NLP are a refreshingly plain spoken resource and training centre for the MythoSelf® Process that is based in South West London and was founded in 2001 by Charles Moore who is one of only a handful of people who has the privilege of being in a close mentoring relationship with the models creator, Joseph Riggio Ph.D. from the beginning.
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