Friday, May 14, 2010

The psychology of how people feel after decisions 

Well a rather important decision has been made.
And studies of people who have made such decisions (or had it made for them) suggest we are going through a well-known psychological process.

If you have ever had to make choices in your personal life – say about who to marry (or with whom to initiate a parallel emotional arrangement) you may recognise this process. Likewise people who have agonised about what job opportunity to select. Possible members of a controlling Council group may have allied experiences.

When such a decision has been made there is a strong need to assert to oneself (and others) the rightness of the decision, and to downgrade the merits of the past alternatives. This is of great comfort in getting down to living with the results of the decision, but psychological studies suggest that the strength of these feelings is not necessarily proportionate to the merits of the case. It is something that happens more or less regardless.

It might be helpful to think of this at the time of the Special Assembly this weekend, the better to understand what is going on.

For my part I recall the aphorism coined by my old boss in the Open Business School that in life we need to exploit the strengths that come from our weaknesses and guard against the weaknesses that are part and parcel of or strengths.

We were faced with a certain pattern of strengths and weaknesses. This has changed to a different pattern. And we need to think about this soberly. This sobriety should include a recognition that we need to redouble our commitment to ourselves if we are really to bring extra life to the Liberal cause.

In a bad relationship (to return to analogy) each partner is so busy second-guessing the other that they forget to bring themselves to the action. They are reduced and constrained. One sign of a good relationship is that each feels able to assert their own identity and build on that even where disagreements arise.

I think that we need to look at the weaknesses and strengths of our situation to make sure that, over the lifetime of this National Agreement, Liberalism is asserted, developed and popularised. This will help our LibDem representatives in cabinet or associated positions in turn to assert themselves and guard against the development of closed-circle groupthink.

How we foster this constructive assertion is our business from now on.

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