Four Stage Model for getting what you want

(Yet another ) framework for personal development

I recently used an anonymous feedback site to get feedback from friends on what I could improve on. Some advice was pretty situation-specific. There was a fair share of compliments. When it came to the constructive criticism, there was a common theme: In some interactions I tend to come across as rude, or when asking questions I seem almost angry and not interested in what the other person is saying, only the answer. This was common enough within the feedback that I felt systemizing my approach to correcting it would be a wise course of action.

One definition of intelligence is a measure of the ability to achieve complex goals. Put simply, general intelligence can be thought of as a measure of how well an agent (i.e., person) can achieve certain goals. While this is a useful concept in dispelling confusing uses of “intelligent” in topics of AGI, it needs more refining and granularity for implementation in real life.

One of my goals is to try splitting this concept into an actual framework; something that can develop by developing actual practical value, in much the same way that 18th and 19th century mathematicians settled on the definition of a group. This is probably going to be much less mathematically rigorous, but it’s only a first step;

The four stage model for getting what you need/want (a practical description for real humans):

  • Stage 1: Punished for even asking. Learn not to ask. Doesn’t get the things needed.
  • Stage 2: Asks, but poorly, rudely even. Hasn’t learned how to ask gracefully.
  • Stage 3: Asks fluently. Sometimes gets the thing. Has the resources to handle the rejection gracefully.
  • Stage 4: Just gets the thing automatically (probably not achievable 100% of the time).

The stages can also be thought of from a development standpoint as 3 main areas of transition:

  • Stage 1-2 Transition: unlearning learned helplessness. Given that this stage of development is more analogous to earlier stages in other models, this is more dependent on outside conditions such as environment or the individuals in that environment. Transitioning to stage 2 is more a matter of either transitioning into a more risk-tolerant environment, or learning to avoid enough active behaviors that are not punished by the Stage 1 environment.
  • Stage 2-3 Transition: In this transition, asking for what one wants or needs is no longer punished quite as extremely, but this is a matter of asking fluently. Resources for learning how to get around this stage may include Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” or “Difficult Conversations” by Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, and Sheila Heen. As a matter of rudeness/grace, a common theme throughout this transition stage may be learning indirectness. Instead of engaging in interactions/relationships with specific end goals in mind
  • Stage 3-4 Transition: Given the few examples of individuals who always fit the category of stage 4, stage 4 is more of a goal that one can asymptotically approach globally but not completely reach. Stage 4 may be achievable in more narrower domains. This is more dependent on what the “thing” is. When it comes to career prospects, it’s a matter of career capital (see Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”). When it comes to monetary gain, it’s having enough investment vehicles. When it comes to social status, it’s a matter of the specific rules of a clique, or overall charisma with regards to assuming control of new cliques.

As for commonalities at each transition stage, tight feedback loops are always needed. Training examples and data need to be spread out over many people. Making the transitions between stages “gracefully” always ideal, though in practice this may not be always possible (this is after all what a person or agent is trying to fix deficiencies with in the first place).

One of the current bottlenecks of this framework is that it is heavily reliant on specific examples and idioms. As I mentioned before, this was largely inspired by my own experiences (for me, I appear in some contexts to be on the “Stage 2-3 transition”). At some point I may return and turn this into a more generalized framework. Ideally I would like to turn this into at least the beginnings of a more formal system for an agent finding or receiving whatever it seeks in a chaotic environment.

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