Sometimes life throws hard decisions at us. It’s easy to get bogged down and paralyzed by all the possible outcomes, and end up defaulting to passivity. But, there’s another way. I call it the “Worst Case Scenario Method.” Coincidentally, it involves imagining the worst-case scenario.

Here’s how it works. You’re faced with a decision. Maybe you need to talk to someone about a how they keep trying to tell you how to live and intruding on your autonomy. You suspect they won’t take it well. So, you put it off, because you dread the outcome. But, meanwhile, the problem persists. Worst Case Scenario Method to the rescue! Imagine having the conversation, then imagine the worst possible outcome.

In this case the worst outcome might be that the person will be angry with you and will stop speaking to you. Or maybe they’ll yell at you. Compare the worst-case with the current situation. In the current situation their meddling is making you unhappy. You’re unhappy. In the worst case, they will be angry with you and may even stop talking to you. Compare – would you rather have an intrusive person continue to intrude, or would you rather they leave you alone, even at the price of having them angry? I know what I would prefer!

Here’s another example. You have a coworker who doesn’t do their share of the work, which means you have to do their work and yours, increasing your workload by about 50%. You have put off talking to them about it because you’re afraid they might get angry with you. Again, yelling is a possibility. Compare your current situation with worst-case. Currently you’re doing 50% more work than you’re getting paid for. This is eating into your personal time. You’re missing time at the gym. Your laundry is piling up. Worst case – the slacker will yell at you, and possible sulk for a few days. Which is worse – dealing with an angry toddler in a grownup’s body or giving up most of your free time while the toddler lazes the workday away.

And, sometimes it’s more personal. Maybe you’re in a relationship with someone who takes more than they give. In the current situation you do all the housework, you keep the cars running and you make sure there’s always food in the house. Not that I have ever been in this situation *ahem*. You hesitate to bring this up with your partner because he or she is prone to outbursts, and you know from what they’ve told you about their past relationships that they have a tendency to break things off abruptly. Here it’s more complicated because your deepest feelings are involved, but the method still works. Current situation, you’re in a partnership with someone who’s not really a partner. Worst case, they leave and you’re free to find someone who is more partner-like.

In all of these scenarios, it’s perfectly legitimate to decide to stay with the current situation. The beauty of the method is that it gives you a clear view of your choices.

I’m sure some will say it’s not that simple, but I would argue that it IS that simple and that the supposed complexities are distractions from the real issues. But that’s just me.

Posted by lesherjennifer

2 Comments

  1. This is a good decision-making method. And the worst case….how did it work out for you?

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  2. Thanks Karlene! As for me, it was definitely better than the alternative, but still looking for that idea!

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