Monday, 29 April 2013

superlative conclusion

Today, I stumbled upon this survey which asks you to recount the happiest day of your life for an article on PsychologyToday.

The answer I submitted was: The happiest day of my life had to have been my proudest. The day when everybody else loved or looked up to ME.

This answer was obviously very vague (I still submitted it anyway because it's an honour to possibly be featured in a post by someone else and possibly get analysed isn't it?-fun fact: I was!) and it did not provide any insight on what specific day of my life brought me the most joy.
This was not a deliberate attempt to be mysterious. Instead, it stemmed from being unable to recall a specific moment of happiness that stood out to me. Although this is not a roundabout way of saying my whole life has been a depressing series of unfortunate events that have left me with no joy left to spare, not at all!
I can confidently assure you that I would be equally lost if you asked for the SADDEST moment of my life. In fact, I would mumble and grumble through any situation where you asked me to make a "superlative decision." I define this as producing an answer that is final and including words similar but not limited to best, favourite etc

This is possibly due to the comparative nature of life. Ever since we were children, we have been comparing or have been compared to everyone else.
Why can't you be more like this? Why can't you do that? She is so much better than you. He is a better friend!
Constantly looking at things with a comparative mindset is almost second nature. This is both good and bad.
Comparing is a technique necessary for learning how to make good, educated choices that leads to positively defining who you are.
On the other hand, it can lead to lack of self confidence and always feeling like you cannot measure up. (You really can't considering you're comparing yourself to the heightened and improved version of others that you create yourself.)
Despite the positives and negatives of making comparisons, it is undoubtedly easier than making a "superlative decision." This is why in many instances where "quickfire" questions are asked to a celebrity, comparative questions are asked rather than superlatives to make it easier for them to produce an answer under time pressure.
Here's an example.
There are many different arguments as to why our brains might work this way. One might be the fear of unreciprocated feelings. There is nothing worse than telling your best friend that they are, well, your BEST friend only to have them tell you you're just one of their many "good friends".
Another fear we have is the fear of people calling us out as liars or cheats. Superlative answers seem very final. Unless you believe in saying things like "this was bester than the bestest thing" a superlative answers seem like the most unchangeable form of an answer there is. It feels like once you utter one of these, there is no going back. As we are so changable and favourites continually replace each other, there's always this sense of doom that surrounds a situation like someone accusing you of being a hypocrite for going back against your word on something as unimportant as your favourite style of music.
These are just a few examples of where the problem may have started. There are other issues that might affect this such as lack of confidence or stress levels but ultimately, it's just fear fear and more fear. Fear instigated by ourselves, our surroundings or the media.

The fact of the matter is, with a comparative, the choice of answers is narrowed down to only two options. Whilst a superlative requires more thinking and boasts more options than we could ever imagine.
If you're dealing with someone who is indecisive or you're under time constraints, try asking them comparative questions rather than superlatives. This may save you a little bit of time and give you a lot less headaches!