An Easy A B C . . .

. . . for prioritizing needs and wants

  • Are we renting Argo or Silver Linings Playbook?
  • Do I help Mandy with math or Ben with Biology first – both need me right now?
  • Shall we go with Sage or Aqua blue for the bedroom walls?
  • Shall we eat out or stay home?
  • Are we hiking or biking this weekend?

HELP! Is there a way to make decision-making both more informed and faster to effect?

Decisions large and small come up for couples and families all the time and often prove fertile ground for a good bicker or an outright fight.

Here’s what we came up with in our family. Essentially, each person involved in making the decision gets to assign a level of urgency, or a priority rating, to his or her option.

We call it simply “The ABCs.”

A = This really matters to me. I care about this choice and not getting this will be hard for me. I feel strongly about this.

B = This matters. I’d prefer this option. But if someone else has an A, I’m OK with some negotiation.

C = I’m neutral. If we’re all pretty neutral maybe I’d lean this way – but it’s all good.

Then of course, there’s the fine-tuning.

A+++ = Say no more!

A- = I feel strongly, between a B+ and A: it’s important, but I can hear all options.

B+ = It’s up there – not quite an A

And so forth.

At first this seems either “duh!” obvious, or plain silly since of course everyone will claim their choice is an A to them. But, let me explain the subtle rules and show you what tends to happen in practice.

Three key rules-of-the-game if this is to work

  • “A” needs to be your least-used priority rating.
  • Be honest with yourself, and wise in how you assign your priorities
  • When someone calls an “A”, do your utmost to honour it.

This system works when you all recognize that for the most part, without this system, everything is an A. You want what you want now – regardless of the consequences it might have for your relationships or other peoples’ choices. Essentially, you’ve always seen the A, but not discerned the B and C priority levels.

This method introduces the ideas that ~

  1. That there are grades of needs and wants;
  2. Decisions with others involve a fuller picture, a larger context
  3. In that larger context, there is a simple way to calibrate the groups’ needs
  4. Most likely, your level of priority is between B+ and C-, so chill a little
  5. Each time you process these priority levels you have a chance to build relationship by listening to each person and honoring the As.

Try it out for yourselves. Talk through how you want to describe the A, B & C options. Agree an A has to be limited and very important. I think you’ll find, as we did, that people are keen to be honest, and to only call an A when they really really need it. My hunch is this will build more self-awareness, other-awareness, restraint, anticipation and a few good doses of fun.

 

 

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