Four steps to resolution

“I want this result, but …” precedes failure. It is a self-limiting belief. Success follows “I want this result bad.” That is an ungrammatical way of stating a goal. Today we seek the sweet spot between abandonment (too little) and unrealistic demands (too much).

My first illustration is universal healthcare, an economy of scale that is working well for the industrial countries other than the United States. They have comparable, frequently better, health statistics at a much lower fraction of people’s total income. As with public water supply and fire protection, a universal health maintenance program reduces costs while assuring distribution of benefits wherever needed.

The second illustration comes from news reporting of several years ago. A dynamic executive-type leader moved into a town where children walked to school alongside open sewers, at great risk to their health. He was favored in the mayoral election because of his vigorous infrastructure improvement program. However, he lost the voting, presumably because of rumors that his program included fining residents who did not clean up private property.

In these cases, we wonder why the science of prevention and the science of home values did not carry the day. That leads to a third illustration: In contrast to political elections, many practices are established by cultural norms. For example, there are societies that eat horses and dogs. Many Americans object to both, legal or not. There are also cultural differences regarding sexual behavior and cutting the human body. Do we send the Marines to make them stop the practices?

People’s behavior in these illustrations is not based in logic. Today’s lesson is not on the logic of healthcare or human behavior. I am asking how to respond when our associates, near and far, are not logical.

So what do we do when differences are uncomfortable?

First, we examine the discomfort, which itself is not necessarily logical. (Is it unscientific to eat dogs?) A substantial dose of enlightenment might change either viewpoint or both.

Second, let us determine whether the discomfort should be allowed to mellow without conscious action. Feelings might change, and forceful interference might well be wasted effort.

Third, a fair weighing process requires neutrality. If the discomfort is so real that something needs fixing and the situation will not fix itself over time, evaluation becomes appropriate. Fairness prevents either side from unilaterally imposing a result on the other. Humans having opposed positions and equal rights need an external reference for comparison. Flipping a coin is the least sophisticated external decision mechanism. Democracy utilizes voting to select actions, but it does not establish underlying truth. These “equal” approaches are not scientific evaluations of relative merit.

The first three steps are practical for avoiding bloodshed or other bad consequences. They are not instant happiness.

Fourth, we move to higher ground, where we refine our mores and practice improved norms. Among the original choices, we do not designate right or wrong. We do not expect any one of them to prevail. Over time they lead us to synthesis, that is, new generation. By contributing, combining, and improving, all the parties grow; they create the resolution.

 Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash