Generalizing Desires

by Scott Noelle

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.

That’s how you practice creative partnership

Originally published on 2006-09-28
Share It !