life curation

Becoming Thomas Hobson, Or How to Accept ONLY That Which You Want

This post feels like it should be a reblog, but, oddly enough, I never wrote about this topic on my now defunct blog. However, this topic was too important to ignore, so I had to share it over here, and I invite conversation about how you all have either seen this or applied it in your own lives.

Back in a previous life, I worked as a paralegal (fabulous work, by the way). I remember sitting through a hearing and a few of the opposing attorneys mentioned the term “Hobson’s choice”. As soon as we had a recess, I looked it up, because I didn’t want to be confused over what it meant. I felt some relief when I realized that the attorneys I worked with had also not heard of “Hobson’s choice”.

In short, a Hobson’s choice (named after stable owner Thomas Hobson) is a “take it or leave it” scenario. It often presents itself as two options, but in reality, only one option is feasible, and this option is always in favor of the person presenting the offer. Most of us present Hobson’s choices to our families regularly: in the case of dinner, instead of saying “take it or leave it”, we’ll say, “You can either eat the dinner I prepared, or you can cook your own meal, and clean up afterward.” See how the option creates a win-win scenario for the offeror?

One of the challenges of stepping into my personal power is interacting with people that intentionally or inadvertently attempt to undermine my boundaries. It’s natural for humans to advocate for their own preferences or to try to sway others to their points of view. However, it is never okay for someone to overstep the boundaries of others, or to treat other’s preferences dismissively.

The question is, then, how can we become Thomas Hobson? It starts with listening to our gut, and learning to trust our visceral reactions. Instead of ignoring how we feel, we have to learn to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge when we hear something (or are offered something) that we don’t like. Becoming Thomas Hobson requires that we realize when our heart and gut say, “No” to an offer, and opt to NOT judge ourselves for saying “No”. It’s hard to not judge ourselves, especially since we live in a culture that thrives on people’s inclination to second-guess themselves. But learning to silence our inner critics is key to embracing our inner Thomas Hobson.

After we recognize that we feel an authentic “No”, we can start experimenting with how to offer solutions that give us a subtle win-win situation. The key to this is subtlety: no one wants to accept a “hard bargain”. We have to become skillful at offering solutions that have the appearance of being somewhat fair, while still offering us what we prefer, regardless of the solution being chosen. The best solutions make the offeree feel empowered, respected, and acknowledged: the moment we can offer ourselves win-win scenarios that generate these sort of feelings in the offeree, we have mastered the Hobson’s choice.

I’m still learning how to do this, but on the few occasions when I’ve gotten it right, it felt AMAZING! I encourage everyone to start experimenting with this concept and see how it works in your lives.

That’s it for today. I hope you all are doing well! I’ll talk to you all tomorrow.

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