We had a situation at work with one of my Extra Minions’ relatives. The guy is a dapper, well-spoken gent who, when at all displeased, immediately loses his temper and starts screaming at whoever is around him. One of the things he routinely bellows during his episodes is that “HE HAS ANGER MANAGEMENT ISSUES!!!!”

I was puzzled by that declaration. It wasn’t that it came as a surprise – if you’re the colour of a beet, flapping your arms around, and yelling at uninvolved strangers over a  minor annoyance, I’m going to deduce that your anger management skills are not as sharp as they could be. What I couldn’t quite work out what he thought the statement was supposed to achieve.

The statement was not issued as an apology. It was put out there to influence the way in which we handled the situation. We were supposed to tolerate his behaviour, although we all agreed – him included – that it was inappropriate, because “he had issues.”

In the past, I would have spent a lot of time sitting and pondering as to whether that was a reason or an excuse. My distinction between the two is based on the validity of the justification given. If the justification is genuine, then we’re dealing with a reason. If it’s not, we’re dealing with an excuse. I might make allowances for a reason, but not for excuses. That approach never worked terribly well for me, for two main reasons.

Firstly, without telepathy it can be hard at times to evaluate a justification. Secondly, your response is ultimately linked to a value judgement of that person. Many or maybe most people don’t like to sit in judgement – our culture increasingly frowns upon it, and we feel bad about it. So we can end up stuck in a cognitive limbo until enough information is available, which may be never or it may be too late, and in the meanwhile we’re left not knowing what to do.

Now I’m thinking about the whole issue in far more mechanistic terms. This person is bringing a behaviour into my life. By their own admission, they cannot take steps to modify or control the behaviour. That may or may not be true, but ultimately it indicates that the behaviour is likely to be a permanent feature of our future interactions. The only question I really need to ask is: do I want that in my life?

Do I want to routinely interact with someone who makes people feel physically threatened? Do I want to be in a relationship with someone who will constantly cheat on me? Do I want to be emotionally close to someone who is incapable of returning that closeness?  The whys and wherefores don’t really matter – it’s the behaviour that’s going to have an impact on me, not the underlying causes. It’s not an issue of judging people; it’s purely a case of gauging compatibility. If their behaviour is incompatible with my happiness or welfare, the best course of action suddenly seems obvious.




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