Saturday, May 1, 2010

On Doing the Best We Can

Good Morning!

By now you're about 16 to 24 hours into our experiment focused on Getting Along with Humans. If you've been adhering to the seven principles outlined in yesterday's blog, I imagine that the humans in your life have changed dramatically (without having done a thing to change.)

In response to the second principle of getting along with humans, the notion that we're all doing the best that we can given our beliefs and perceptions, Sree commented:
I wonder about #2 - we're all doing the best we can. It has certainly served me well, but when talking about past events, as in "his loud screaming was the best he could do at that time", it occurs to me that 'best' is really speculation, or spin. It would be more accurate to say "that's what he did; now deal with it". I mean, the 'best-ness' of an event is not intrinsic to it, it's entirely in my perspective of it. And I don't mean "deal with it" in a dismissive way either - the dealing with it is completely in my power and opens up a whole area of discussion on what way of dealing would be most helpful.

But I see how calling our actions "the best we can" is compassionate, especially when it's a continuing behavior or something that we're finding hard to change.
In response to this, Joy commented:
Saying "it was the best he could do" can be seen as: of the choices he was aware of having at the time he did his best - but by no means does it mean that it was the best for you.
I'm so excited about Sree's and Joy's comments as they've provided me good insight into places where I might do a better job with clarity and specificity.

Served or Not
For many of us, the notion that each of us is doing the best we can seems to be difficult to swallow. Early in his comments, Sree states, "It has certainly served me well."

What Sree has done is to frame the notion of doing the best we can in the context of usefulness versus truthfulness. This is in an application of principle #1, in evaluating tools or methods, something is true because it works, not because it can be proved or disproved. What matters in this case is whether or not the belief that you or someone else is doing the best they can leads to a better relationship (better being up to you) or a worse relationship.

While questions such as "was it really the best he could do?" might be philosophically or theoretically interesting, they don't have a place in this context, at least, not if you want to improve a relationship. In the end, the question is, "does it work or not?"

Philosophically
All that said, philosophically, I would argue that each of us is indeed doing the best we can at any moment.

Indeed, one might look at the situation later and see how he could have done better. He might receive feedback on his behavior and immediately change it. Seeing this, you could argue, "See, he wasn't doing the best he could! Even he'll admit that he could have done better."

I think this misses the point. The concept of each of us doing the best we can given the circumstances is somewhat akin to concept that to you can't dip your foot into the same river twice. Sure, we can look back upon a situation and see how we might have behaved differently. We can receive instruction. But the person looking back is not the same person who did what he could in the moment.

If You're Gonna Spin...
Sree goes on to say:
when talking about past events, as in "his loud screaming was the best he could do at that time", it occurs to me that 'best' is really speculation, or spin.
I agree. Not only is viewing our actions as the best we could do spin, but spin is the whole point of viewing them in that manner. When we encounter undesirable behaviors, all we can do is speculate as to what is driving them and whether or not the behave-er could behave better. Since it's all speculation, we can spin it any way we want, positively, negatively, inter-dimensionally, you name it. So, the question becomes one of how to spin it, not whether or not to spin it. No matter what we do, we're spinning.

In my experience, spinning it as doing the best he can leads to better results than say, spinning it as, he's being an asshole on purpose. If there's a better way to spin it (better meaning more effective at building the relationship), then that would be the spin to use.

Deal with It
Sree then added: It would be more accurate to say "that's what he did; now deal with it".

Forgetting for the moment that we're talking about useful, not accurate, I believe what Sree says here is a critical success factor. When we encounter undesirable behavior, we can make a big deal of it, get upset and judgmental, cry, scream, or storm out of the room, or, we can look at it matter-of-factly and deal with it. The key to success on this front is principle #7, Take Nothing Personally, Ever.

We recognize that the misbehave-er is doing the best he can, we recognize that his actions and emotions have nothing to do with us (they're all about him), and we respond in a manner that is loving with no negative charge (principle #4). We deal with it.

Per Sree's suggestion, we could put a neutral spin on the actions (since we're only speculating, even neutral is spinning), but I believe a positive spin is more effective.

Being Compassionate
Finally, Sree says: But I see how calling our actions "the best we can" is compassionate, especially when it's a continuing behavior or something that we're finding hard to change.

Sree, it was so cool reading this as I had never thought of any of this as being compassionate, just useful. In fact, for me, it's self-serving.

The Best for Me, The Best for You
Joy commented: Saying "it was the best he could do" can be seen as: of the choices he was aware of having at the time he did his best - but by no means does it mean that it was the best for you.

I believe that what Joy has hit upon is the lynchpin of the whole approach. In many ways, the nature of disagreement, strife and conflict is that the best for one person is not the best for another. In light of this, the goal of getting along with humans can be achieved by aligning our 'bests'. We can do this by determining what is absolutely best and forcing realignment. Or, we start with each of our bests and continually improve and change them until they're aligned (or not.)

What Do You Think?
Sree and Joy, thanks so much for the insights and stimulation. They really helped me to get my thoughts more clear. What do you think?

By the way, if y'all haven't started your 48 hours of applying The Seven Principles of Getting Along with Humans, there's never a time like the present.

Happy Saturday!
Teflon

3 comments:

  1. LOL - I want to correct my self: the best choise for him, might not appear to be the best for me... who knows what happens in the long run.

    I have started the 48 hours - the playroom was cancelled, and I plan to spend most of the weekend home - so it could be an easy start...

    Joy

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ahh... perhaps the universe is aligning everything for your to work on your relationship with just one special person...

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are SO right - if you had known my week and especially today...

    ReplyDelete

Read, smile, think and post a message to let us know how this article inspired you...