The Daily Groove


Generalizing Desires

Suppose your child wants to bounce on your friend's antique sofa, but you want to respect your friend's property. The conventional response is to say NO and block the child's behavior, using force if necessary.

Being unconventional, you ask yourself instead, "How can we both have what we want?" But these specific desires are incompatible. So you generalize one or both of them by looking for the underlying desires.

For example, your child wants to jump on the sofa because it feels good to defy gravity. You want to respect your friend's property because you want to be a good friend.

Now you can put these more general desires together and begin to see ways they could fit. Perhaps you could be a good friend to your child by helping him or her find another way to defy gravity.

Keep looking deeper and you'll find many, more general desires that will lead you to an abundant supply of mutually satisfying choices.

Question your assumptions

My wise friend Sue Lawrence read this Groove and reminded me that problems don't need to be solved when they can be dissolved by questioning one's assumptions:

About the antique sofa, the friend may not mind a child bouncing on it. I ask my friends when my child wants to do something like that, if it's OK with them. Sometimes they say "yes" and that solves the problem. We can't always assume others have the same ideas we do about property, and someone's antique sofa may well be someone else's piece of junk they're putting in the trash soon :)

Re: Generalizing Desires

Great point (about questioning the assumption).

I like this article. I've been trying to do this more lately (undoubtedly inspired by this and other Daily Grooves). And not just me coming up with another way - I involve the kids as much as possible. I think doing this (both finding another way and getting them involved), as opposed to just saying "no," will help the kids in the long run to think creatively about how they can fulfill their desires while not hurting others. This world needs more "win-win" thinkers!