Connected Decision Making

Recently in a class series I am teaching for couples, I brought index cards and each couple made a set of feelings cards and needs cards.  There is something about having these words individually on a card that makes them easier to work with.

I suggested to the couples that they put the feelings and needs on the coffee table.  This is important both figuratively and literally.

The process of making decisions is usually to talk about the content of the situation and then go right to problem solving.  More effective decision making includes putting feelings and needs on the table before moving to problem solving.

Let's look at an example with a couple, Sirena and Hakeem. They were having difficulty making decisions about finances.  Sirena started the financial meeting by reviewing the details of what was happening and Hakeem interrupted with "I know, I know, let's move on."  This inevitably escalated into a reactive argument.  Helping to slow them down and get each of their feelings and needs on the table, Hakeem realized Sirena was lonely and anxious trying to meet a need for connection by sharing current financial information.  Hakeem had previously heard her as trying to educate him or talk down to him.  When Hakeem said 'I know, I know', Sirena learned that he was trying to express his feelings of anxiety and frustration and needed teamwork around growth and creativity relative to finances.  With all the feelings and needs on the table, Sirena and Hakeem were able to make a plan about approaching financial meetings. 

They decided to start each meeting with what was going well financially and express appreciation for each other around this.  This helped with connection and grounding and lessened anxiety for both of them.  Sirena would then share the current financial information taking no more than 10 minutes and Hakeem would listen and let her know that he heard her.  Then they would take 20 minutes to brainstorm new ways they might want to approach finances.

If you are getting stuck making decisions with someone, it is a good bet that you have skipped hearing feelings and needs and creating connection around them.  Slowing down and listening for what's really important underneath the content allows you to make decisions that are fulfilling and harmonious.

The next time you are making a decision with someone take a few minutes before offering your opinion or idea and make a guess at the needs the other is hoping to meet with their proposed decision.