Response Crafting

Decisions are black and white, but thinking is often gray.

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We make decisions in terms of absolutes, but we don’t think in absolute ways. Binary answers – yes or no? – are not actually reached by binary thinking.

“Do you want Chinese for dinner?”
Yes or no?

(Because you either do, presumably, or you do not.)

But those are only the black and white outputs of a thought process that sometimes treks through gray. And it takes some work to get to yes or no.

Sometimes, sure, we have a resounding “yes,” but sometimes we’re somewhere in the gray area, falling slightly more to one side of the spectrum or the other.

Sometimes we think to ourselves (or, much to our partner’s frustration, say out loud) things that sound a lot more like: “well, I wouldn’t hate it” (It’s not a “no”) or, conversely, “I’m not sure that would delight me” (It’s not a “yes.”)

We talk in terms of binary because it’s simpler; cleaner. But most things in our mind actually aren’t.

Even computer programming, which generates black and white outputs, is crafted in this “only half-absolute” way.

Things are not described as “this” or “that” (with “that” called out specifically), but rather “this” or “not this.” (i.e., “If; elseif,” usually, in programming logic.)

I would assume it would even be “irresponsible” to code in terms of true binary, categorizing things by calling them out as what they are (in absolutes.)

Rather, coding is done by calling out one thing as an absolute, and then capturing everything else that isn’t, based on this fact alone.

It stands to reason, then, that we might operate the same. That when we say things like “yes,” we may really mean “not no.” And vice versa. (Even our own language reflects this in phrases like do, or do not.)

“Sure,” we say in answer to Chinese. When what we sometimes mean is “I wouldn’t hate that.” It’s not a “no.”

And this is only more true as the decisions get bigger.

Most of life choices are made without absolute certainty. Everything is anything but black and white. It’s all shades of gray. We have to make decisions all the time operating in the unknown. We pick colleges and quit jobs and start new ones and have kids and all kinds of other things without fully knowing about the other side. Our church offers no absolutes.

“Do you want this?”

“Well.” We may think, even if only subconsciously. “Not yes, so no.” Or “Not no, so yes.” (And maybe one of those may be better for our longterm wellbeing than the other. I’m not sure. That’s not a question for right now.)

But you have to do something with these things in life. You have to make decisions, now don’t you? So you do.

And you stand behind the things you say and do. We may still think in gray, but we are expected to move forward in black and white, without continuously unraveling things as we go.

You order Chinese and don’t complain about it or change your mind. You eat the food and act like a normal, fully functional adult, which is to say: “rational” and resolute.



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