All Options Policy

What I really liked about Colin Wright’s book Some Thoughts About Relationships is that he focused on more than just romantic relationships. Wright examines how humans interact with each other within all types of relationships from romantic relationships with an intimate partner, to business relationships, to cordial but surface level relationships with the mail man. With so many possible relationships out there, Wright developed a framework for thinking about the multitude of ways that humans can relate to each other. He calls it the “All Options Policy”.


About the policy, he writes, “The key to understanding this policy is accepting that there’s no single moral, upstanding, golden model when it comes to relationships. There are as many valid relationship types as there are people, and it’s up to each of us to figure out what unique, specific shape ours will take.”


I really like this policy and wish we did more to apply this policy to our relationships and to build similar policies across our lives. I grew up watching too much TV, and I developed certain expectations about life, work, and relationships. These expectations were narrow in scope because they were based on what I saw on TV and were unrealistic because they were less about me and more about a performance for someone else. The way I grew up assumed there was a right way to act, behave, relate to others, and generally live. My mindset was the opposite of the “All Options Policy.” What’s more, this worldview was formed by scripted 30 minute tv segments, where reality, nuance, and true emotions were replaced by spectacle and overblown emotional reactions.


When we fail to recognize the variety in human life and experience we begin to force people into set boxes. We make assumptions and we try to live within a narrow range. Expanding that scope the way that Wright does with the All Options Policy allows for more creative and authentic human experience. We all have unique views and perspectives of the world, and we should expect that we will all have the capacity for developing our own ways of relating to the world and to other people. When we allow this to be the case, we can think deeply about what we want, expect, and need from our relationships with others, think about what other people want, need, and expect from us, and find a way to develop relationships with the people in (or potentially in) our lives. If we try to force relationships to be something that we think society, TV shows, or other people want our relationships to be, then we will never experience the rich complexity and individuality of human existence that the All Options Policy reflects.


Author Colin Wright starts his book, Considerations with the following paragraph:


“Few of us take the time to consider.
     It’s not that we’re ‘inconsiderate’ in the sense that we’re rude or brash or one of the other myriad associations we’ve tacked on to the word over the years, but we are often ‘inconsiderate’ in the sense that we act while seeing the world from only one standpoint: our own.”


I love the introduction to Wright’s book because it defines his personal philosophy and reminds me of the importance of having multiple perspectives in life.  when we think of living a life with only a single perspective as living an inconsiderate life, we are opened up to how limited our lives can be.  Wright’s quote helps me understand the importance of learning how others think about and view the world and events that occur.


What I find truly unique about Wright’s idea is the combination of actions and considerations. When we sit on our own to read, write, or ponder the world, we can be quite good at working through other people’s perspectives, but it is difficult to take those considerations and apply them to ourselves and our lives in a meaningful way.  It is not difficult to think of others when you are comfortable and have a philosophical book in your hands, but when we are stressed, challenged to do something beyond our comfort zone, or forced to interact with people in new situations, being able to see and perceive beyond our own viewpoint is difficult.


In politics, outside of our own individual perspective or the perspective of the politicians we trust and vote for, it is hard to envision anything that would be good for yourself, the country, and all others. We fall into a zone where we believe that a single perspective is the best or only option, and fail to try and see the world through the eyes of others.  I think one of the big challenges in our political system is that we have 300 million perspectives on government, but we try to only acknowledge the one that we believe serves us best.


I believe that Wright would agree with me and say that it is important to tie our actions with considerations of multiple perspectives, but I think he would also say that being able to see various perspectives during times of reflection is important.  Reading books that challenge your perspective, thinking about others from their point of view, and acknowledging that not every thinks like you is a big step toward laying a foundation that can support considerate actions.