Decision making is a skill that can’t be taught, but learned over experiences. However, making decisions in the face of uncertainty is more often a matter of intuition rather than skill.
When my cousin (Adam) was 16 years old, he went on a joy ride with his friend (Pappu) and classmate, in Pappu’s Dad’s car. To those of you who don’t know, in India, the minimum legal age for attaining a driver’s license is 18 years or above. In other words, none of them had a driver’s license. And yes, they borrowed the car without informing their respective parents.
Long, scary, story short, Pappu lost control of the car. There was an accident, there was property damage and it happened in a very rough neighborhood, 6 kilometers (3.72 miles) away from their idyllic residential colony.
Thankfully, no one was injured. Apart from a scare Adam and Appu were fine as well. However, the car was a mess, there was property damage, and it was a very rough neighborhood. The kind that would resort to ‘mob justice’. Pappu was in shock, unable to move or speak and there was a mob beginning to form around Pappu’s dad’s ‘wrecked’ car.
Take control by Focusing on the First immediate problem.
Not knowing what was going to happen next, Adam decided to take control of the situation by focusing on the first immediate problem. He opened the door and asked the ‘mob’ for help, communicating the urgency by the tone of his voice and hand gestures. At first, they were just mad, unwilling to move and a few even yelled at him.Then a few started making their way towards him with rage in their eyes, and clenched fists.
Make Solving the First Immediate Problem, your Immediate Goal.
Adam decided to continue with his course of action, this time pointing towards Pappu and raising his voice, telling them something was wrong with him. After a few seconds of hesitancy, some of the elder people in the crowd encouraged the younger (hot-headed ones) to help him. They then helped Adam carry his friend out of the car and lay him down on the side of the road. (Although, I wouldn’t encourage this as it is safer NOT to move a victim after an accident until a medical professional has authorized the victim to be moved. Fortunately, nothing happened to Adam or Appu). He was still in shock, not moving or speaking. His eyes kept darting back and forth from the car to the mob. Adam knew the next part was going to be difficult but it had to be done. He took Pappu’s Nokia 6600 from his pocket and decided to call his parents. However…
Identifying the Other Immediate Problem
When it comes to a crisis, there are always going to be 2 immediate problems, simply by the nature of cause and effect. Identifying the first problem helps you make quicker decisions on the second one.
However, they were not quite done. As soon as they saw that Appu was not physically hurt, they didn’t waste any time with the ‘hostilities’. They accused them of being spoiled brats taking advantage of their affluence and wealth. There were spite and contempt in their words and actions. And then demanded payment for the property damage. Since Pappu was still in shock the accusations and questions were directed at Adam. As they continued to talk, the more aggressive they became and the louder they got.
Stick With Your Decision
Adam didn’t know what to tell them. But he did know ignoring them was not going to help him and delaying the call was not going to help Pappu. He decided to stick with his decision of helping his friend but handled it diplomatically. He asked the mob, “Can I call the people who can HELP you with your claims?”
Although that did get their attention, it took a little more coaxing and apologies from Adam’s side, before they finally calmed down. Their problem was not a lack of empathy, but a lack of sympathy. Adam and Pappu were a representation of everything they didn’t have. It was hard for them to feel sympathetic towards the two of them. However’s Adam’s diplomatic approach and his overall decision to help his friend did not change over the tense stand-off, which was what ultimately helped those two get through the situation
Adam turned around and looked at his friend, who looked like he was starting to gain some sense of what was going on. Adam mouthed the words, “I’m sorry”, turned around and called Appu’s parents.
I’m not going into the details of what happened next. I’m sure you can form your own conclusions. It’s been well over a decade since the accident. Adam and Appu still swear by it being one of the worst days of their lives. They are only grateful that no one was hurt on that fateful day.
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Originally published at Bebee