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Coffee with Mimi: Few decisions are defined by ‘good news or bad news’ choice

By MIMI BECKER

When someone begins a conversation with, “There’s good news and there’s bad news,” you know there’s probably more to consider. Often the bearer of the tidings offers the option of which bit you want first. 

Likely choosing optimism over negativity first is not relevant to what is coming your way. Your answer is as much dependent on your frame of mind at the moment as on the actual facts of the case. In fact, the facts are pretty much framed by perceptions. And in any case, there are at least two participants in the interchange and good news for one could be quite the opposite for the other.

The choice is often presented with a wry laugh, further confirming your suspicion that the outcome of either choice is not going to be as simple, or as desirable, as the introduction to the case would suggest. Either/or options would imply a quick answer is at hand. Either I am an indecisive person, or I overthink it in such situations, but rarely can I satisfactorily process such simplistic information in short order. 

 If the choice is not too consequential, I may not really care. Otherwise, skip the inclination to oversimplify if there really is a conscious choice needed and consequential rationale to honestly consider.

Really, if you would just tell me the useful news, I would appreciate it. Give me the status of the situation in concrete, verifiable statements and wait patiently while I consider. I may need to sleep on it, so to speak.  

I will surely need to ask for more information, and consult others or seek out varying sources of information. If time to ponder is not in the cards, for example if there will be irreparable and immediate harm to me, my family, and my property if I delay for a second, which would be useful information for very short term consideration. Otherwise, I’ll have to get back to you when I have had an opportunity to think and we can have a decent conversation to hash through the question.

With certainty, some issues are way less important than others and a funny little distillation of the options makes for light hearted banter. Something like the fridge is old, but I can keep it going with a new switch a little while longer, or… But in general, defining the options as being derived from one thing is good and another is bad would imply that there is a quick answer to neatly resolve the situation.

Don’t I wish it were so?  

At any given moment, the very thing that seems so obviously “good” will possibly involve the acceptance or endurance of a thing that has unintended potential for “bad.” Or, at least, it appears to be so in the moment.

Most any parent can identify at least one experience with a child who makes a much longed for and determined leap of independence in a direction so clearly fraught with obstacles. You know the signs. “Mom, I‘ve got a job and I’m dropping out of school.” Or something of the like. 

This thing is definitely blurring the lines between good and bad news for the parties involved.  For the new income earner there is pride in being self-sufficient and no longer a financial drain on the parent. The parent may fear diminished future options for the young adult and a wandering focus in identifying and defining life goals. We’re in a tough economy these days; wouldn’t you be better prepared with a degree? 

Says who? 

Back to the original thought. Don’t lead with the good news/bad news line. Let’s look at the useful news. And that’s where the really hard work begins.  

What’s at the heart of the question? Are you leaving school because you hate your econ professor, or is there a bigger question about the overall curriculum? What do you see as possible solutions to your concerns? Are there people who could support you in your search? 

Of one thing I am sure right now. There are a lot of words and actions needed after the “good news first or bad news first” choice. There are many solidified and entrenched layers at work around us.

What is clear is we need “useful news.” It is also clear, to me, that careful, intentional consideration is necessary. This is more than replacing a broken appliance or putting new tires on the car. We will need people to consider along with us.

Sometimes, I think the right answer is surely right there in front of me, easily defined and Don’t I wish it were so?