Shortcuts to Analysis and Decision Making
To simplify analysis and decision making, we reduce many of our beliefs to
simple rules. Taken together this set of rules becomes our worldview. Stress, including our responses to threats, attacks, abuse, and
insults often cause us to revert to primal thinking based on the fallacy of
polarized thinking. The primitive rules often
create a rigid and absolute notion of good and evil.
- Simplified basis for drawing conclusions.
Example Primal Rules
Primal thinking relies on absolute, polarized categories while it
dehumanizes the enemy or threat. When these faulty rules are used to interpret
another's behavior, they can lead to very wrong conclusions and hostile
overreactions. Here are some examples of rules that can result, along with a
more careful and accurate analysis.
||If you don't say “Hi” to me, you disrespect me.
||You can care without saying Hi!
You might be busy or tired.
||If I am not fully accepted or loved then I am being
||There are many intermediate levels of acceptance.
Rejecting ideas does not imply rejecting the person.
||If you disagree with me you don't respect me.
||You have another point of view.
I may be incorrect or misinformed.
||If I don't strike back I am a wimp.
||Restraint may be called for.
Self-control is a characteristic of maturity.
Compassion takes courage and understanding.
||If you don't return my phone call you don't respect me.
||You may have missed the call
You may be busy or away from a phone
You may be following up at a later time
I might be annoying you
||If you (do or do not) look me in the eye you are challenging
or disrespecting me.
||I may not know or share that rule
I may be focusing on something else important
||People should do what I want them to do.
||People are autonomous.
change another person.
||If I can't influence other people I must be powerless.
||People are autonomous.
Influence is complex and subtle.
The evidence is anecdotal, not systematic.
||People should always show me respect.
||They may not know you.
They may not always take time to acknowledge their respect.
You may not be earning their respect right now.
||Anyone who disrespects me is my enemy. I should use
to teach them to respect me.
||They may be mistaken or uninformed.
They may not be serious.
Your opinion of your stature is the only one that truly matters.
Self-control is a characteristic of strength and maturity.
Violence breeds violence, not respect.
||If people criticize me, they are unfair.
||Constructive criticism may be warranted
People are entitled to their opinions
||If I do something for you, you should do something for me.
||Reciprocity is not mandatory; people are autonomous.
They may not have appreciated what you did for them.
You may be expecting too much from them.
||A man doesn't have to take crap from his wife.
||Every insult doesn't have to get to me.
Maybe I deserve the feedback.
I can be the better person by ignoring the sniping.
||Suffering deserves to be rewarded.
||Suffering is personal, it may not contribute any value.
The suffering may be unnecessary.
If you choose to suffer, that is your business.
It is a fallacy to expect
rewards for suffering.
||It's my way or the highway.
||Many viewpoints are valid and valuable.
||The only way to get something done right is to do it
||There are many competent people in the world.
work with them, communicate with them, and respect
||If I don't get my way I am a pushover, wimp, and sucker.
||I can be firm when when I need to preserve my core values. I
can be persuasive, thoughtful, understanding, resourceful, creative, and
respectful all the time as I demonstrate leadership. I can set boundaries
without resorting to threats and stubbornness.
Rules are not to be broken
When we see others breaking our rules we want to punish the
cheaters; often violently.
Setting the Trap
Some hypersensitive people with fragile self-esteem establish a system of
(often unwritten) rules so
extensive, complex, and unreasonable that their rules will inevitably be broken. Then
they use the broken rule as an excuse to retaliate; often
A better set of rules
Perhaps adopting these well-chosen rules can help increase your emotional competency
and enjoyment of life. You may want to print out this
this one-page version
and keep it with you or share it with co-workers.
- Expect respect. Don't tolerate disrespect. Don't show
disrespect toward others. Don't ignore disrespect directed toward yourself
or others. Learn to discern genuine respect from patronization.
- Don't make assumptions.
Suspend judgment until you can gather representative evidence, confirm the facts,
and consider a variety of viewpoints.
Challenge and investigate the source of rumors rather than passing them on.
- Don't overlook logical fallacies or
meaningful factual errors. They are clear evidence of faulty and careless
thinking, and often of deliberate deception. Apply the
theory of knowledge continuously to evaluate all
you see and hear.
- Dignity is unalienable; it is our
humanity and it cannot be taken away.
Consistently acknowledge with your words and deeds the dignity inherent in
yourself and all others.
- Don't tolerate Ad hominem attacks.
Do not make them yourself. Do not ignore them when you see or hear them. They are a fallacy and
a dangerous precursor
- Refuse to hate. Understand and reconcile your loss,
hurt, or distress through careful analyses, not by
others or by hating others. Emphasize all the
important things you have in common with others, not the small ways you differ. Hate is
only sustained by cognitive error. Find and correct that error.
- Always act congruently with your well-chosen
and beliefs. Be authentic. Improve
your values and beliefs deliberately as your
- You are a competent,
autonomous adult. You are fully
responsible for all your words and actions, as are other competent
adults. You are not helpless. Be
impeccable with your word; do
what you say.
- Conflict is
inevitable. Learn to
resolve it constructively. Strengthen
each relationship as you resolve each
issue. Get along as you all get ahead.
- Refuse to resort to violence or abuse.
Learn to recognize it in all its forms. Don't cross the line, even in
retaliation or frustration.
There is always a better way; find it. Seek a constructive
dialogue. Resolve the conflict constructively.
- Don't take the bait. Don't take anything
distracting, trivial, unfounded, or misguided provocations. Avoid pointless
and destructive dominance
contests. Discuss the facts, don't attack the person. Rely confidently
on your own well-founded self-concept; it
is the only evaluation of your worth that matters.
- Know what you can and cannot change. Change
what you can, and accept what you cannot change.
- You cannot
change other people. You can better understand them, learn from their
viewpoint, demonstrate empathy and compassion, dialogue with them, help them resolve
ambivalence, model desired
behavior, teach and inform them, describe likely consequences and outcomes, assist them in making
changes they choose to make, and perhaps
- Loss is often permanent.
Accept the past, learn from it, and move on.
- You deserve to have fun and enjoy life. Balance
optimism with a healthy skepticism to
maintain a realistic outlook on life. Play.
- Seek gratification and significance.
Life is not a dress rehearsal, do
what matters now. Life is too short to
indulge in destructive, wasteful, or meaningless activities.
Prisoners of Hate: The Cognitive Basis of Anger, Hostility, and Violence,
by Aaron T. Beck
The No Asshole Rule,
by Robert I. Sutton
Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt,
Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness,
Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience,
Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach,
Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification,
Gratitude, Anger, Remorse,
power, dominance, stature, relationships