1. Get the Facts. Watch your ladder of inference: a) something happens; b) we observe and then pick & choose among these events of what to evaluate or draw a conclusion about, or make a judgment, or tell a story about; c) the story we tell ourselves drives an emotion; which in turn leads us to d) choose an action to take. Can you separate fact from story? Emotions? Facts are observables that can be corroborated by multiple observers. Stories are conclusions, judgments or an evaluation of facts. Emotions are the products of the stories we tell. When you gather facts, focus on the facts not the conclusions, opinions or stories, please. Remember, even if people agree on the facts, an infinite number of stories can be told from the same facts. But, first, be sure everyone has access to the same facts!
2. Define the Ethical Issues.
What is in conflict for you? Is right & wrong in play? What is your gut telling you about this situation? Does something not feel right? Listen to your intuition and feelings; this is data. Answer this question: Why I am I so conflicted in this situation?
3. Identify the Stakeholders.
Who are they and what is their interest, as well as their position? That is, what do they want (position) and why do they want it (interest)? Actions contemplated to resolve your dilemma must address or partially address the interests of those affected by or who can affect your actions. Identify the interests of the stakeholders and you can then anticipate how others might respond to any action you are contemplating taking to resolve your dilemma.
THE FIX (This is what is missing from the 8-step model).
Think back to step 2. What actions are you contemplating to resolve your dilemma? List them here. Action 1: Action 2: and so forth. These actions can now be put to the test of each of the three following prescriptive reasoning tools. Each tool, when applied as intended, should “tell” you which action to take to resolve your dilemma.
APPLY EACH OF THE THREE PRESCRIPTIVE REASONING TOOLS:
4. Consequentialism: Identify consequences (both positive & negative) associated with each action contemplated to resolve your dilemma.
Choose the action that creates the greatest net good for the greatest number. Use T accounts if this helps you outline the benefits and costs of each action. Some consequences or outcomes may have greater subjective value to you. Take that into account when comparing competing actions that produce an equal number of positive and negative consequences or outcomes. Think about how each action at least partially addresses an interest of each stakeholder (that is, anyone who will be affected by or can affect your actions). The action that produces the greatest good for the greatest number wins this test.
5. Identify Duties/Obligations (for each action contemplated)
Think back to step 3. What duty do you owe each stakeholder? How does an action contemplated to resolve your dilemma address this particular stakeholder’s interest (not position) in the dilemma? Are some stakeholder’s interests more deeply felt by you than others? Then which contemplated action best fulfills those duties that have the deepest roots in the communities (stakeholders) that you care most about? The action that best meets the duties & obligations felt by you wins this test.
6. Virtue Ethics: Consider Your Integrity (what virtues do you want to live here?).
Use the CNN test to gauge if a contemplated action seems wrong. What does your community (be specific about who this is) tell you to do? Think of someone you respect; what would they have you do? Why? Do you subscribe to this approach? That is, would you do it because it defines you (and not the person who you think wants you to do this) Most importantly, identify and name the virtues that are most important to you to practice in this situation. Which of the contemplated actions or behaviors(the “fix” in this 8-step reasoning model) best align with these virtues? Do any of the contemplated actions (the fix) to resolve your dilemma align with these virtues? If not, then you are not living your virtues! Recall, virtue ethics reasoning only indirectly answers this question; in this situation, what is the best thing for me to do? Instead, it asks this question, in this situation, am I living the virtues I want be known for? That is, are you living your live well? When actions are aligned with self chosen virtues, then you are leading yourself; walking your talk, so to speak.
7. Think Creatively About Solutions.
What result do you really want to create? That is, in your heart of hearts, what is it that you really wish to accomplish? Are the actions you are contemplating to resolve your dilemma (the fix) capable of creating the result(s) you desire? Have you considered all stakeholder interests and not just their positions? Can you find an action that satisfies both your and others’ interests (that is, mutual interests)? Can you buy some time to think through this dilemma, given its complexity? Have you looked up? Looked out? Asked others for help or input? You can be creative about the way in which you seek a solution as well as the solution itself.
8. Check Your Gut.
What is your gut telling you about this dilemma? What’s really in conflict for you? Did your gut help increase your awareness of an ethical issue? What doesn’t feel right about the dilemma? What does or doesn’t feel right about the action you are contemplating taking to resolve your dilemma? What if steps 4, 5, & 6 support contradictory or competing actions? When all else fails after steps 4, 5, & 6, what does your gut or intuition tell you to do? Note, gut or intuition can be useful at several points along this 8-step reasoning model and not just at the last step in this process.