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Improve Robustness To Minimize Emotional Vulnerability

emotional vulnerability


Improve Robustness To Minimize Emotional Vulnerability

Fourteen quick strategies for minimizing your emotional vulnerability

You want them to change–your partner, your kids, your boss, your friend, whomever. You’re really hoping you can get them to stop doing that thing that drives you crazy.

But if it drives you crazy, you’re at their mercy. Your wellbeing depends on them changing. That’s a lot of power to surrender to others.

Maybe you’re resilient, able to recover quickly after being driven crazy. Fast recovery is nice, but not needing to recover is better.

Wherever possible, develop robustness, not just resilience. Robustness is the ability to withstand adverse conditions calmly and firmly. Resilience is just the capacity to recover quickly after being thrown of balance.

Think James Bond. He’s not just resilient; he’s robust. You don’t see him recovering his cool after a fight. He’s cool throughout the fight.

Here are fourteen strategies for maximizing your robustness in any campaign to change anyone who is driving you crazy:

  1. Minimize dependency: What do you absolutely need them to do differently? Maybe less than you assume. Figure out exactly what you need and train your gut to ignore the rest.
  2. Depend elsewhere: Since they’re resisting, are there workarounds? Figure out if you can get what you need by other means. Maybe you just haven’t allowed yourself to think outside the relationship to find practical alternatives.
  3. Find it in yourself: Do they drive you crazy by disrespecting you? Maybe you can boost your inner respect so you rely less on their respect. Practice what you would say to preserve your dignity even if you never get their respect.
  4. Stop trying to prove your power to yourself: If you feel humiliated when they don’t change, maybe it’s because you’re looking for evidence of your own power. We all need evidence of our power but maybe you can get yours by other means. For example, are you afraid they’ll change your mind if you don’t change theirs? If so, cultivate confidence in your own position so the campaign doesn’t have to become the proof of your ability to stick to your guns. If you know that they won’t persuade you, they can try all they like and you’ll stay calm.
  5. Plan your response to dead ends: Arguments escalate as both parties dig their heels in deeper and deeper. Pledging not to do that won’t work. Instead, rehearse what you’ll say or do to stop yourself from escalating. Come up with your “noping strategy” your strategy for coping with escalation by saying a clean “Nope, I’m not pursuing this now,” clean–meaning polite but firm. Make it something you can enforce with minimal effort.
  6. Drop the moralizing: Moral rationales motivate our campaigns, but dwelling on them is often futile. We live in a morally diverse world so there’s a good chance that your morals will diverge from those that others embrace. If you’ve made your moral case and it’s not working, reiterating it is probably a waste of breath. It stirs and agitates you but not the person you’re trying to change.
  7. Try a simple request for a change: When you’re both calm, try simply asking for what want. Declare it as a simple preference. Don’t give reasons why they should do it. Sometimes it’s your pressure they’re resisting, not the request you’re making.
  8. Vote with your feet, not your mouth: If they’re not listening to you, stop talking. People who block your opinion often think that they can change your mind. Treat their blocking as an invitation to keep them in the dark about your opinion.
  9. Be a social engineer:  Maybe you can’t change people, but you can often change how you interact with them to bring out a different part of their existing character. Devise behaviors that shape their response. Think strategically. Imitate whatever brings out other sides them in other contexts. We shouldn’t manipulate but we do want to influence, and fear of being manipulative shouldn’t prevent us from thinking about what we can do to bring out compatible behaviors in others.
  10. Have a Plan B: Decide in advance what you’ll do if your campaign to change them fails. Knowing you have a Plan B will keep you calm in pursuit of Plan A. Share it if you think it will help, but don’t dwell on it either in your own mind or with the people you’re trying to change. Pocket it. Keep it on hand as a comfort, evidence that you’ll be OK if your whole campaign fails.
  11. Know when to quit trying: This is easier than it sounds. When you each can make each other’s argument convincingly and still haven’t changed each other’s minds, you’re done at least for now. No reiteration of your arguments is going to change each other’s minds once you’ve really heard each other.
  12. Admit that robustness isn’t always possible: Sometimes a campaign is do or die, no way out or around the person you’re trying to persuade. If you’re children are behaving horribly you can’t just stop raising them. If you have zero job alternatives, your only option may be to persuade your boss to stop being a jerk to you. Robustness is worth striving for. It can’t always be achieved.
  13. Don’t be a robust jerk: Some of the worst people in the world are robust, unflappably committed to horrible campaigns.  Pick your campaigns carefully.
  14. Robustness can make you more persuasive and receptive: Calm people do better in negotiation and debate. They’re more charismatic and powerful than people who seem desperate to win. Robustness can make us more receptive too. When you don’t have to steel your nerves to protect yourself in a debate you can listen better.

[Jeremy Sherman]

Vital stats: Berkeley, 57, partnered, three children (M34, M28, F24), married once for 17 years. Educationally: Ph.D. in evolutionary theory, masters in public policy Vocationally: MBA professor of strategic foresight, business consultant and communications trainer, academic researcher. Historically: I've taught over 250k college-student/hours in psychology, sociology, rhetoric, philosophy, advertising, economics, history, English, cultural studies, marketing and strategy. I founded a non-profit environmental lobbying organization in DC, worked as a business consultant and public affairs director for large companies, ran a foundation, designed and implemented water projects in Guatemala. For seven years I lived on the world's largest hippie commune, and was an elected elder there at 24. Authority: None. I never refer to myself as an expert in anything, but rather a specialist in those questions that interest me (see below). I write with no authority. I read lots but cite rarely in my articles which should be read as opinion pieces, not declaration of scientifically proven fact. I will not pull rank on readers: My ideas are only worth considering only if they're based on good reasoning. I change my ideas over time. Caveat emptor. They say "don't believe everything you think. I'll go one further: I don't believe everything I write, in that for every argument I make, I aim to be able to express convincingly the counterargument. I try to live by the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Self-expressively: I've written over 600 articles for Psychology Today, coined over 400 psychology neologisms. I write songs and limericks. I play bass and sing in jazz, Latin, funk, and Nigerian groups three nights a week. Intellectually, yet intimately, my middle-age spread spans several life-sized questions. * Most cosmically, how did mattering emerge from matter?, life from non-life? mind from chemistry? economics from physics? information from energy, questions I address as a member of a 16 year research project with UC Berkeley scientist Terrence Deacon. * More practically, though not unrelated, how do and how should we shop among interpretations, deciding what's significant and how to respond to what life deals us? * Also practically and related, what is a butthead other than someone we butt heads with? since in a free society we should define morals negatively--not what you should, but what you shouldn't do. We say "don't be a butthead," but define buttheads subjectively as people we butt heads with. I seek a more objective distinction between what's morally in and out of bounds. * How do and should we balance the ambigamist's tensions and what is the underlying structure of such tensions? For this I use the Serenity Prayer as a template, and think about levels of analysis (going meta). I've written five books, only one published but the rest out soon one way or another. Negotiate with yourself and win: Doubt management for people who can hear themselves think. Purpose: A natural history Doubt: A user's guide; a natural history Mind readers dictionary: Terms for reading between the lines with greater comprehension. Executive UFO: A field guide to unidentified flying objectives in the workplace.

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