Emotional Competency

Explore the Logic of Passion

Shortcuts to Analysis and Decision Making

To simplify analysis and decision making, we reduce many of our beliefs to simple rules. Taken together this set of rules becomes our worldview. Stress, including our responses to threats, attacks, abuse, and insults often cause us to revert to primal thinking based on the fallacy of polarized thinking. The primitive rules often create a rigid and absolute notion of good and evil.


  1. Simplified basis for drawing conclusions.

Example Primal Rules

Primal thinking relies on absolute, polarized categories while it dehumanizes the enemy or threat. When these faulty rules are used to interpret another's behavior, they can lead to very wrong conclusions and hostile overreactions. Here are some examples of rules that can result, along with a more careful and accurate analysis.

Need Primal Rule Accurate Analysis
Relatedness If you don't say “Hi” to me, you disrespect me. You can care without saying Hi!
You might be busy or tired.
Relatedness If I am not fully accepted or loved then I am being rejected. There are many intermediate levels of acceptance.
Rejecting ideas does not imply rejecting the person.
Respect If you disagree with me you don't respect me. You have another point of view.
I may be incorrect or misinformed.
Respect If I don't strike back I am a wimp. Restraint may be called for.
Self-control is a characteristic of maturity.
Compassion takes courage and understanding.
Respect If you don't return my phone call you don't respect me. You may have missed the call
You may be busy or away from a phone
You may be following up at a later time
I might be annoying you
Respect If you (do or do not) look me in the eye you are challenging or disrespecting me. I may not know or share that rule
I may be focusing on something else important
Control People should do what I want them to do. People are autonomous.
You cannot change another person.
Control If I can't influence other people I must be powerless. People are autonomous.
Influence is complex and subtle.
The evidence is anecdotal, not systematic.
Respect People should always show me respect. They may not know you.
They may not always take time to acknowledge their respect.
You may not be earning their respect right now.
Respect Anyone who disrespects me is my enemy. I should use violence to teach them to respect me. They may be mistaken or uninformed.
They may not be serious.
Your opinion of your stature is the only one that truly matters.
Self-control is a characteristic of strength and maturity.
Violence breeds violence, not respect.
Fairness If people criticize me, they are unfair. Constructive criticism may be warranted
People are entitled to their opinions
Reciprocity If I do something for you, you should do something for me. Reciprocity is not mandatory; people are autonomous.
They may not have appreciated what you did for them.
You may be expecting too much from them.
Respect A man doesn't have to take crap from his wife. Every insult doesn't have to get to me.
Maybe I deserve the feedback.
I can be the better person by ignoring the sniping.
Fairness Suffering deserves to be rewarded. Suffering is personal, it may not contribute any value.
The suffering may be unnecessary.
If you choose to suffer, that is your business.
It is a fallacy to expect rewards for suffering. 
Egotism It's my way or the highway. Many viewpoints are valid and valuable.
Control The only way to get something done right is to do it yourself There are many competent people in the world. Trust them, work with them, communicate with them, and respect them.
Respect If I don't get my way I am a pushover, wimp, and sucker. I can be firm when when I need to preserve my core values. I can be persuasive, thoughtful, understanding, resourceful, creative, and respectful all the time as I demonstrate leadership. I can set boundaries without resorting to threats and stubbornness.

Rules are not to be broken

When we see others breaking our rules we want to punish the cheaters; often violently.

Setting the Trap

Some hypersensitive people with fragile self-esteem establish a system of (often unwritten) rules so extensive, complex, and unreasonable that their rules will inevitably be broken. Then they use the broken rule as an excuse to retaliate; often violently.

A better set of rules

Perhaps adopting these well-chosen rules can help increase your emotional competency and enjoyment of life. You may want to print out this this one-page version and keep it with you or share it with co-workers.

  • Expect respect. Don't tolerate disrespect. Don't show disrespect toward others. Don't ignore disrespect directed toward yourself or others. Learn to discern genuine respect from patronization.
  • Don't make assumptions. Suspend judgment until you can gather representative evidence, confirm the facts, and consider a variety of viewpoints. Challenge and investigate the source of rumors rather than passing them on.
  • Don't overlook logical fallacies or meaningful factual errors. They are clear evidence of faulty and careless thinking, and often of deliberate deception. Apply the theory of knowledge continuously to evaluate all you see and hear.
  • Dignity is unalienable; it is our humanity and it cannot be taken away. Consistently acknowledge with your words and deeds the dignity inherent in yourself and all others.
  • Don't tolerate Ad hominem attacks. Do not make them yourself. Do not ignore them when you see or hear them. They are a fallacy and a dangerous precursor to hate.
  • Refuse to hate. Understand and reconcile your loss, hurt, or distress through careful analyses, not by blaming others or by hating others. Emphasize all the important things you have in common with others, not the small ways you differ. Hate is only sustained by cognitive error. Find and correct that error.
  • Always act congruently with your well-chosen values and beliefs. Be authentic. Improve your values and beliefs deliberately as your worldview expands.
  • You are a competent, autonomous adult. You are fully responsible for all your words and actions, as are other competent adults. You are not helpless. Be impeccable with your word; do what you say.
  • Conflict is inevitable. Learn to resolve it constructively. Strengthen each relationship as you resolve each issue. Get along as you all get ahead.
  • Refuse to resort to violence or abuse. Learn to recognize it in all its forms. Don't cross the line, even in retaliation or frustration. There is always a better way; find it. Seek a constructive dialogue. Resolve the conflict constructively.
  • Don't take the bait. Don't take anything personally. Ignore distracting, trivial, unfounded, or misguided provocations. Avoid pointless and destructive dominance contests. Discuss the facts, don't attack the person. Rely confidently on your own well-founded self-concept; it is the only evaluation of your worth that matters.
  • Know what you can and cannot change. Change what you can, and accept what you cannot change.
  • You cannot change other people. You can better understand them, learn from their viewpoint, demonstrate empathy and compassion, dialogue with them, help them resolve ambivalence, model desired behavior, teach and inform them, describe likely consequences and outcomes, assist them in making changes they choose to make, and perhaps influence them.
  • Loss is often permanent. Accept the past, learn from it, and move on.
  • You deserve to have fun and enjoy life. Balance optimism with a healthy skepticism to maintain a realistic outlook on life. Play.
  • Seek gratification and significance. Life is not a dress rehearsal, do what mattersExternal Link now. Life is too short to indulge in destructive, wasteful, or meaningless activities.


Prisoners of Hate: The Cognitive Basis of Anger, Hostility, and Violence, by Aaron T. Beck

The No Asshole Rule, by Robert I. Sutton

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