Interpersonal Decision-Making and Cost-Benefit Analysis
Decisions come in all shapes and sizes. Throughout our lives, we are faced with having to make decisions all of of the time. These decisions can range from trivial issues like what to eat for breakfast or choosing which face wash to buy. Then all the way to life-changing decisions like where and what to study and choosing who to marry. Often, we have to practice effective communication while processing the pros and cons of a decision. This is where it gets tricky. Sometimes we have to weigh out the pros and cons of the choice at hand before we make that choice.
What is decision making?
Decision-making is the act of choosing two or more courses of action. In the wider process of problem-solving, decision making involves choosing between possible solutions to a problem.
Considering your goals and priorities in a conversation can be difficult. You have to make lots of decisions in a split second that communicate what you want effectively. You should have a clear cut ask of your partner, and focus on what is important. Basically, the decision-making process is complex in and of itself. This is without the intention of putting the other person’s feelings first or knowing exactly how you want to feel at the end of the conversation. Whew! Seems tough huh? Well that is exactly what we are going to break down for you. MindWellNYC’s Licensed Clinical Psychologist Rebecca Skolnick offered some expert tips on how to identify your own interpersonal decision-making process. Rebecca also provided a few demonstrations of the cost-benefit analysis to illustrate pros and cons a bit further. See our strategy below:
Get clear on what is important to you
The main principles of decision-making consists of thinking and planning before doing or saying. Consider your goals and priorities first. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to communicate?” “What am I asking for or saying ‘No’ to, specifically?” And most importantly, “How do I want to feel at the end of the conversation and what is most important to me?” Additionally, consider how direct you intend to say no or yes to something. Take note of all the things that might get in the way of getting your most important goals and needs met during the conversation.
Practice what you plan to speak
Try writing what you want to say during a confrontation. Practicing all the different scenarios that could play out is a great practice to get in the habit of. This can help you create good decision-making habits right now as well as in the future. Role-play and write down what you are going to say. This will help build confidence and effectively communicate in any given moment.
Put yourself in their shoes
The main idea of interpersonal decision-making is enabling you to take another person’s perspective. You can do this by taking a deeper look at what it is the other person might be communicating. Then, actively attempt to validate their opinion (even if you don’t agree). Another great way to change your perspective is to try and nonjudgmentally describe what they are trying to say back to them.
Try to stop blaming each other. Instead, enter the conversation with compassionate understanding.
The pros and cons of blaming someone depend on each individual situation. However, blaming may not get someone to change their behavior. It may make them more defensive rather than more willing and cooperative in the discussion. Sometimes people blame others in order to feel relief from not being at fault. However, that does not necessarily lead to change.
There are certain discussions in life that are heavy, difficult, or emotionally charged. These are often situations where it is important to use a cost-benefit analysis to overcome the situation. Laying out the costs and benefits of a situation allow for a proactive and thought out plan to be put in place. Such examples might be, when you want to say no to something or decisions that have a large outcome. Or, when there is a conflict of values at hand and when you want to ask for something. Specific examples might be asking someone out for a date, asking for a raise, or breaking up with someone. Additionally, saying no to someone or asking for your security deposit back from your landlord. Or, asking your parents for permission to go to a concert and asking your roommate to clean the dishes. These as well as many more real-life examples are great opportunities to get clear on what you want and how you want to feel. Also, how you want the other person to feel at the end of the conversation.
Rebecca Skolnick has provided us with a quick and short example of the cost/benefit analysis:
Of course these pros and cons and costs and benefits depend on the situation at hand. However, it is good to use this type of process when making the decision to have a serious conversation about something you want.
Key takeaways to remember when analyzing your own situation
Before heading into a conversation with your partner, it is important to lay out your goals. Ask yourself, what do you want from the situation, what are you asking for, and what are you saying no to. How do you want the other person to feel after and how do you want to feel after the conversation ends? Then, you can prioritize what's most important; getting what you want, how your partner feels, how you feel... This will help to clarify what you are going to say before you say it. In DBT, we teach specific interpersonal effectiveness skills for how to communicate given your goals and priorities (DEARMAN, GIVE, FAST skills). You can also weigh the pros and cons of having the conversation at all or having it at a specific time.
Summary of the main idea behind interpersonal decision-making and cost-benefit analysis
The main idea here is that we cannot control what other people do or say. We also cannot control our thoughts and feelings right away. On the contrary, we can control how we respond to them and plan ahead for a future potentially emotion-evoking situation. Therapy is really about you, not about your partner, or anyone else in your life. While it might be helpful to understand other people's perspectives, it is most helpful to understand yourself. Understand your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as prompted by other people and other things.
While we cannot control others or make anyone do anything, we can learn how to effectively ask for what we need.
The effective way we do this increases our chances that someone will listen and deliver. For example, the DBT GIVE skills are all about relationships. They teach you to stay calm, gentle, interested, and have an easy manner. This is so that the other person listens to what you're saying and takes you seriously. It might also help to identify any factors that might be interfering with your ability to effectively ask for you what you need.
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