Hygge Part 9 - Equality, 5 tips for cutting your stress by making clear and fair decisions


A mother of twins once decided to put a stop to arguments about “fairness” by having one twin divide whatever it was they were to share and have the other twin decide what half they wanted.  It should have been perfect, but it didn’t stop the arguments at all.  I read that story many years ago as the start of a magazine article and I remember the rest of the article being a good read on the trials and tribulations of being a mother of young twins.  

What the article didn’t do, however, was look at the issue of treating people fairly in everyday life.  We probably all mean to do it, we probably all think we do it and yet we probably all have experiences of what we perceive to be unfair treatment and we’ve probably all been unintentionally unfair to other people at some time in our lives.  

Now the reality is that nobody’s perfect and we all make allowances for that fact and it’s reasonable to expect other people make allowances for you, to a certain extent.  At the same time, we don’t like it when we feel that we have been treated unfairly and so we should make what reasonable efforts we can to avoid meting out unfair treatment to other people.  

Actively making the effort to be fair to people can also make our lives much easier especially if we are a parent or have a job, even if we’re not in a management role (and even more so if we are).  It can minimize the stress we experience through having to deal with arguments and people reacting in a hostile, negative manner because they think we’ve been  unreasonable towards them.

So, with that in mind, here are 5 actionable tips you can use so that you can feel confident that you are treating other people fairly and, hence, can have confidence in any decisions you take regarding them.

Tip 1 - Resist pressure to take hasty decisions

Parents will be familiar with this one, but it happens in the workplace as well.  Two or more people are having an argument about something and you have to sort it out and everyone’s doing their best to make sure you hear their opinion over all the others, because instinctively people know that getting a person’s attention is the first step to getting them to take action and people also instinctively know that the person who is most visible and/or most vocal is usually the one who gets the most attention and therefore has the highest chance of getting the other party to take the decision they want and they want you to take that decision and take in NOW.  This is probably the single, biggest reason why well-meaning people wind up taking unfair decisions so be aware of it and be ready to resist it.

Tip 2 - Be prepared to change rules but consistent about applying them

Times change and rules that worked well at one time might not work so well, if a rule is no longer working, change it and when you communicate the change, explain why you’ve made it, but when a rule is in place, apply it consistently, do not ignore it.  If you keep finding yourself in situations where you have to ignore a particular rule or “bend” it slightly, then you should probably be asking yourself if that rule is actually appropriate to your current situation.

Tip 3 - It’s fine to have different rules for different people as long as there’s a clear reason for it.

When dealing with children, it’s standard to have different rules for children of different ages.  In the workplace, life can get more complicated.  When you’re trying to work out what’s fair and what’s not, then whenever you have a solution you want to test for fairness try saying to yourself “I think X is fair because…” then see where “because” takes you and try to look for any loopholes in your thinking, or run your thoughts past someone else for a second opinion.

Tip 4 - If you set down rules for other people, follow them yourself, unless you have a clear reason not to.

This is partly about fairness and partly about the fact that people will generally see very little reason to respect the rules you set unless they see you following them yourself.

Tip 5 - If something really is unfair to someone and it’s impractical to change it, try to offer a sweetener to compensate.

This one is always worth remembering.  Sometimes, in the real world, any decision you take is going to wind up being unfair to somebody, so instead of trying to ignore this, acknowledge it and basically accept the fact that, fundamentally, you owe this person one and look for an opportunity to make it up to them.

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