Ask Dr. Brinkman

Dealing with Relatives – Guilt and the Obligation Checklist

(from Dealing with Relatives, Brinkman & Kirschner, McGraw-Hill)

To help you go from “have to” to “don’t have to” to “don’t want to” or “really want to!” we offer you a pre-obligation checklist. While you don’t have to use it, you may want to give it a try.

Pre-Obligation Checklist

In order to bring conflicts to the surface and clarify your options, answer the following questions as honestly and openly as possible.

State the Nature of the Relative Emergency

What is the event to which you feel obligated to attend?
Where and when does this event take place?
What else do you have going on at that time?
Who is sponsoring it?
Who else is likely to attend?
What is involved in attending the event? Time? Money? Energy? How much?
What is the nature of your obligation to attend? Is it duty, conscience, a promise or commitment? Guilt? Fear?<endUL>

Acknowledge Your Feelings

How do you feel about attending the event?
How do you feel about feeling that way?
How would you like to feel regarding the event?
Do you feel any pressure to participate? Where is it coming from?

Worst Case Scenario

Is the timing of this event in conflict with the timing of some other event?
Is the expense of attending this event in conflict with some other expense?
What is the worst possible outcome if you don’t fulfill this obligation?
What is the worst possible outcome if you do fulfill this obligation?

Best Case Scenario

What is the best possible outcome of attending this event?
What is the best possible outcome of not attending this event?
What might you gain by attending the event?
What might you gain by not attending it?
What other options do you have regarding this event?

Count the Cost
Remember, whenever you say “Yes” to doing something, you’re saying “No” to doing something else.

What do you lose by fulfilling the obligation?
What would you not get to do that is more important to you?
What do you lose by not fulfilling the obligation?
What would you not get to do that is more important to you?

Make Your Best Choice
There’s no such thing as a perfect decision, but there is such a thing as your best decision.

Which of your options will cost you the least or gain you the most?
What do you choose to do?

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