Teenager Brain and the Five Question Plan

I’ve been reading Dr. Frances Jensen’s book on the biology of the teenage brain.  Apparently, the adolescent brain goes through massive changes during the teen years, as the frontal lobe becomes “wired.”  This is the lobe responsible for reason– a.k.a. considering actions and consequences.

This explains a lot of my world.  I call it, the ready, fire, aim syndrome.  Act first, think later.

I think it may be contagious, and it worries me.

You don’t like the tinted UV protective windows your neighbor put up, so you report them to the association, who demands that they be removed.  In turn, that neighbor finds every ordinance violation in the neighborhood, requiring thousands of dollars of unnecessary repair expenses.  I’m sure they’ll thank you for it later, but hey, you really stuck it to Mr. Tinted windows.

Someone tailgating you?  Drive really slow, and don’t let them pass.  When they follow you into the Walmart parking lot, show what a big man you are by threatening them with a golf ball.  When the guy ducks and it sails through someone else’s window, at least you aren’t fighting any more as you both hightail it out of the parking lot before you get arrested. (For the record, this was NOT my husband.  He doesn’t golf.)

Someone cuts you off in traffic?  Ram their car.  Lost your house?  Take a sledgehammer to it.  Got fired?  Leave a scathing voice mail saying nasty things about your boss and send it to the entire office.

And the most tragic recent example.  You see a stranger walking through your neighborhood, and after calling the police, of course you go outside with a gun, what else would you do?  Scenarios involving snap judgements and guns never end well.

I had an employee whose lack of tempered judgement made him a wrecking ball with legs.  Before it got us both fired, I told him that he was no longer authorized to make decisions.  He could meet with clients and gather information only.  His purpose?  To ask questions.  He’d bring the answers to me along with his plan, and we’d discuss it before he could move forward.

Inevitably, there were a lot of questions he wasn’t asking, uncertainty he wasn’t hearing, and a lot of assumptions buried in the analysis.

Assumptions buried in the analysis.  How much do we assume about the motives and the mindset of the other party when we make our decisions?  We forget that most people don’t act out of malice, even when it feels that way.

I make assumptions about people and situations all the time.  Can I be sure that mine aren’t faulty?  As I’ve said before, I can’t change the world, only my little corner of it, so as of today, I’m instituting the five question plan.  Before I take any action, or make any decisions effecting another person, I have to ask at least five questions.

And no, what the hell are you thinking, are you on something, and seriously don’t count.

Hopefully I can become a better listener and make more thoughtful decisions, and I’ll spend less time putting out fires created by my own lack of consideration.  I may even make a few new friends in the process.

So, for the good of society, who’s with me?

Before you agree, I’d be glad to answer any questions you might have.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Ryan Thackray

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