Some situations seem to call for obvious reactions. However, even when we think there’s only one logical response, there are often many options available for our choosing. How can we figure out which choice is most effective?
Doris’s husband, Bob, works long hours and has considerable responsibility. Doris has never had much interest in Bob’s work, so when he off-handedly mentioned that he has a new trainee: “JJ,” Doris paid little mind.
When Bob forgot his keys, Doris didn’t resist razzing him a little about “senior moments.” She popped into Bob’s workplace to deliver the keys and was met by a stunning blonde in coveralls. “Hi, I’m JJ. I can take those to Bob.”
JJ?? The trainee so innocuously named JJ is this young beauty? Looks like Bob left out a few details!
Doris fumed all the way home. Why didn’t Bob tell her?
There are lots of possible reasons. As Doris has never expressed interest in Bob’s work or trainees before, why would he think she would be interested now? JJ is just another trainee; what’s the fuss?
Or maybe Bob thought that Doris would be angry and suspicious if he mentioned that JJ is a little easier on the eyes than most of his trainees. From Bob’s perspective, would that make his life better?
Doris is now pondering what to do with this new information. She knows she has choices, but what’s the most effective choice? It depends on what she wants.
If Doris wants to make her relationship with Bob worse, then she can dream up a veritable cornucopia of actions!
For example, she could pick a fight. “Bob, you’d better get rid of that new trainee, or I’m going to make your life miserable.”
She could pretend she hadn’t met JJ and try manipulation. “So Bob, what do you think of your new trainee?” Then, if Bob isn’t completely forthcoming, she could pounce.
Or she could give Bob the silent fuming treatment. If he really cares, he should be able to figure out why she’s upset. Then, he should apologize.
It’s pretty clear that choosing anger, manipulation, or fuming will not help the Doris-Bob relationship.
Instead of hurting the relationship, what could Doris do to develop a better, closer relationship with Bob?
One good option is to plan something enjoyable. Doris knows that their weekends aren’t fun anymore; it’s all home repair, yardwork, and drudgery. Bob used to enjoy their Friday night movies and popcorn; it helped take his mind off work and start the weekend. Doris could reinstate that.
Why is it up to Doris to plan something fun?
Well, Doris only has control over what she does; she has no control over what Bob chooses to do.
And which will make her life better: spending a pleasant Friday evening with Bob or filling the evening with fuming, resentment, and accusations? Doris can choose based on what she wants.
Now here’s my question for you: Do you think it would be helpful for Doris to ask Bob why he didn’t mention that his new trainee is unusually attractive?