FROM ANGER TO CHALLENGE: A STEP TWO EXAMPLE
Audrey is at a fine restaurant with her parents celebrating her law school graduation.
“Well, your mother and I are so proud of you, Audrey,” says her father.
“Now you know, Audrey, I think it best that you begin your career in my Wall Street firm,” says her father.
“Dad, we discussed this already. I’m going to get a job in the Department of Justice. I made some connections there and that’s where my heart is.”
“We discussed that several months ago, and just briefly,” her father replies. “Now that the real decision is right before you it’s time to get serious. I want to make sure you really think this out thoroughly to prevent you from doing anything foolish.”
I’m twenty-five years old now, Audrey thinks to herself. Dad should respect my decision on this. It’s my life for crying out loud!
As these thoughts fly through her mind she begins to see that her temper is rising. She takes a deep breath, and says, “Dad, I know you’re concerned about me because you love me, and I certainly love you for that. Today I just want to celebrate what I’ve accomplished. Let’s put some time aside next week to fully discuss your concerns.”
“I don’t see why we can’t discuss it now,” says her father. “We have the time right now!”
“Not now, Dad!” Audrey says firmly. “I’m not prepared for this.”
“I think Audrey is being very fair, John,” says Audrey’s mother. “It’s really Audrey’s decision. It’s her life. She agreed to discuss it with you next week. Make a time to do this and let’s get on with the celebration.”
“Okay, Audrey,” her father says with a frown. “We’ll have dinner at home next Friday, and we’ll discuss it then.”
“Thank you, Dad,” Audrey says, and she leans over and gives her father a kiss on his cheek.
Later that night, Audrey is back in her apartment. She gets comfortable in bed and begins to ponder, while imagining her friendly self is listening.
I’ve heard Dad’s arguments twenty times already! Why should I bother to listen again? I wish he would just let me make my own decisions. I’m not a baby anymore!
She pauses, and wonders what her good friend in her mind might say. “It is understandable that you are angry,” comes the imaginary reply. “Don’t you think it would be a good idea to take a few seconds to observe your internal physical sensations?”
“Oh, OK,” Audrey responds. She then closes her eyes and observes tightness in her stomach and that she is chewing on her lip. She continues to observe her internal sensations, without trying to put any words to them. Soon, her anger fades.
A wave of sleepiness comes over her.
I’ll think about this some more tomorrow, she says to herself. Heck, probably the best thing to do is to just listen to Dad once more over dinner next Friday, and then I’ll smile and tell him that I heard him out. Then I’ll declare that I’m going with a career at the Department of Justice.
The next day, Audrey once again considers how to deal with her father’s concern.
OK, she thinks to herself, it’s time to try out this two-step process. First Step: Spend a few minutes going through the experience in which I became angry with Dad from a few steps back from what actually occurred, observing my distant self in the event.
After going through this experience, Audrey says to herself, I feel like I can be a little more reasonable about what happened. Now I’m determined to achieve my desire to resolve this conflict. Don’t forget that the stress I’m experiencing is normal and fulfillment is not found in easy comfort, security, and routine, but rather in the continual growth in wisdom through what is learned from negative and positive experiences of an active, changing life. Those thoughts are firing me up!
Audrey then takes a deep breath and resolves to get down to the task at hand. Is the plan I came up with yesterday sufficient? she asks herself. Hmmm. Last night I thought that the best way to handle this conflict is to just listen one more time to Dad. Aaaa, he’ll get angry with my decision and then I’ll get angry with him. I’m just not comfortable with this. That means I got to go through a bunch of other stuff to prepare,. Maybe I should just tell Dad to mind his own business and that’s that!
But then she read a Calvin and Hobbes comic that was sitting on her coffee table.
After smiling, she says to herself, I still have several days before my Friday dinner discussion with Dad. There’s no pressure to come up with an immediate plan. I think I’ll try out Step 2—Carrying out a more complete decision process. But I’m going to take another day just to put this all aside.
It’s the next day. Audrey reminds herself that she is at Step two. OK, I have to do three things to carry out a more complete decision process. First, I have to describe my anger conflict using the DIG Conflict Model. That’s easy. I desire to get a job with the Department of Justice and Dad is interfering with this by insisting I consider more thoroughly what my job options are. I think Dad is guilty of not minding his own business. Let me see if I can frame the conflict from Dad’s perspective. He desires that I go into his Wall Street firm and interfering with this he knows that I’m determined to go to work for the Department of Justice. He thinks I am guilty of being wrong because I have not thought about this as thoroughly as he would like.
Hmmm. As I think about this some more, my guess is that the real conflict Dad has with me has nothing to do with how expert I am at making these types of decisions—he really just wants me to work with him and to guide my career. But unless I address the conflict as he is now defining it, we’ll never get to the real issue.
Now, the next thing Step 2 has me doing is to go over my ABC’s of Power list. Here it is. I see the first source of power is A for Advancing Skills. This source of power refers to working toward developing a talent that people you care about value.
After Audrey thinks about the other sources of power, she takes a mile walk just to relax for a while.
When she gets back to her apartment, she sits down on her couch and says to herself, Okay then, tomorrow I’m going to go to the library and spend an hour studying up on what it looks like to be an expert on making decisions. Then when I see Dad on Friday, I’ll impress him with my knowledge, and we’ll go through the decision process together. I’ll make sure that by the time the evening is over he will know that I heard him out. I’ll then summarize his position and declare my decision.
The next day, Audrey begins a search in her library’s bookshelves and comes upon a book titled Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of Conflict, Choice, and Commitment, by Irving L Janis and Leon Mann.
On page 11, she finds that the authors extracted from an extensive literature review seven major criteria that can be used to determine whether decision-making procedures are of high quality. She writes these down:
1. thoroughly canvass a wide range of alternative actions;
2. survey the full range of objectives to be fulfilled and the values implicated by the choice;
3. carefully weigh whatever they know about the costs and risks of negative consequences, as well as positive consequences, that could flow from each alternative;
4. intensively search for new information relevant to further evaluation of the alternatives;
5. correctly assimilate and take account of any new information or expert judgment to which they are exposed, even when the information or judgment does not support the course of action they initially prefer;
7. make detailed provisions for implementing or executing the chosen course of action, with special attention to contingency plans that might be required if various known risks were to materialize.
Later in the chapter, the authors review some of the research supporting this approach. Hmmm, Audrey says to herself, there’s some pretty good evidence this procedure can be helpful.
She then quickly lists the three job alternatives that made the most sense to her—a job with the Department of Justice, a job with her Dad’s Wall Street firm, or opening a private law practice in a small town. She then lists the pros and cons of each.
When Audrey finishes this, she decides that it would be a good idea to talk to some experts about what are, for each of the three alternatives, some pros and cons that she might not be aware of. She decides that the experts for this task are people who are currently working in each of the three types of jobs.
Dad is a good expert for the job as a Wall Street lawyer, she thinks to herself. I’ll have him help with this at our Friday dinner meeting. But he wants so much for me to join his firm, he’ll probably be biased, and he’ll end up playing down the negatives. It would be better to ask someone who doesn’t care if I become a Wall Street lawyer.
To track down lawyers in each type of job, Audrey emails professors from her law school that then put her in contact with former students of theirs who had gone on to careers in each of the three jobs. The discussions she has with these former students are very helpful.
By the time Audrey and her father meet for their Friday dinner, Audrey has given her career a great deal of thought. She impresses her Dad with her knowledge of what it takes to thoroughly consider her job options, the type of research that supports the procedure she had chosen, and the information that she had gathered on the specific options that she considered. She then asks her father for his input.
When her father is done, Audrey carefully summarizes what he had to say. She pauses for a good few minutes, showing her dad she is really thinking over all the information she has gathered. Then she announces her decision that she is going to stick with her initial choice, a job with the Justice Department. Her father once again objects, making a few final pleas for her to reconsider. Audrey recognizes this as negative criticism of her decision.
She pauses to think about how she can respond at level five which requires that she try to come up with some way to steer in her father’s direction. Suddenly, an idea comes to her.
After summarizing what her father had said, using her most loving voice, she says, “Dad, you make some very good points. Here’s what we’ll do. After one year of my job at the Department of Justice, you and I will meet again to discuss my career. I’ll have a lot more information by then about what I like and don’t like about that job. You’ll have a whole year to think up some new reasons for me to go into your firm. I’ll only be 26 by then, and so it won’t be too late to change my career path. And if I do decide to change, I bet at least some of the stuff I’ll be learning at the Justice Department will be helpful for a Wall Street lawyer to know.
Audrey’s father looks a little sad as she tells him of her final decision. Still, he nods, and says that he appreciates that she will remain open about the possibility of changing her decision after a year. They conclude their meeting with a sweet hug.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.