Tetralemma method for easier decision making

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Tetralemma method for easier decision making

Making decisions is not always easy. In retrospect, every decision can turn out to be wrong. Fear of making a wrong decision and indecisiveness are real brakes on decision-making.

Are you afraid of the consequences of a wrong decision? A decision blockade causes important decisions to be postponed. Do you find it difficult to decide for or against something?

As a thinking tool for better decision-making, the tetralemma method is used in decision-making processes in professional and private environments. The model goes back to the thoughts of the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjunabis. The philosophy of this thinker still has a high value today.

In the meantime, the basic method, which is used in coaching, consulting and therapy, has been adapted to modern Way of life of the 21st century. The tetralemma is intended to expand the decision and action space in order to simplify difficult decision-making processes.

What is a tetralemma?

Originally, the tetralemma comes from Indian logic. There it was used for decision making in jurisprudence. The method is based on the philosophy that a person's view of decisions is very limited.

It is assumed that there are only two options between which a decision is made. However, life does not consist only of black or white. In the tetralemma scheme, further possibilities to decide are shown.

The decision constellation includes additional perspectives so that the decision process becomes more goal-oriented and individual. A tetralemma can be used for any professional or personal issue. It is designed to be used for all forms of decision making.

tetralemma method

Tetralemma as a method of making decisions

Do you like making decisions or do you find it difficult to decide? What is important to you when making decisions? Do you ask family members for advice when you are stuck? Or do you sleep on it before making a final decision?

Decisions can affect your life and have far-reaching consequences. If you decide to study, you are bound to curricula and exam dates for several years. If the decision later turns out to be wrong because the subject was unsuitable, you have lost a lot of time.

On the other hand, decisions can also turn out to be lucky. You decide to apply for a job. The employer invites you to an interview and makes you a lucrative offer. A lot in life depends on being able to make decisions.

Decisions are often postponed because it is difficult to choose the right one between two options. What happens when advantages and disadvantages are analyzed and evaluated and no clear answer is found? The goal of the tetralemma method is to widen this limitation and to attention to sensitize for further perspectives. There are usually more solutions than just two.

What are the four possibilities of the tetralemma?

Tetralemma systemic method includes four different positions. These are:

  1. the one
  2. the other
  3. both
  4. Neither

If there are two options, you can choose one or the other. Most of the time, it's the solution that suits your opinion and that you think is the best.

The "other" is the second option. It is less suitable and is initially rejected. After checking the facts or through arguments from others, the decision is made to go for the other.

The third position of the tetralemma clarifies the challenges underlying a decision. It quickly becomes clear that the decision is "both and".

In some situations, neither is the right decision. In order for a solution to be found, new ideas must be gathered and "out of the box" thinking must take place.

Insa Sparrer and Matthias Varga von Kibéd, the two scientists who developed the systemic structural constellation, added a fifth position to the tetralemma. The fifth possibility is described as "All this not and even that not".

This additional option expresses the basic philosophical attitude behind the tetralemma. The goal is not to avoid wrong decisions, but personal development.

In what situations is the tetralemma useful?

Many situations require quick decisions. Often, decisions have to be made spontaneously. This increases the pressure to make wrong decisions. By adopting tunnel vision, we try to avoid this risk and only consider one option.

Under these circumstances, various aspects that contribute to a decision are insufficiently illuminated. The tetralemma constellation makes it possible to perceive other perspectives as well and to include them in the decision-making process.

Tetralemma systemic counseling can help simplify decision-making situations when faced with complicated challenges. The tetralemma method is used in the systemic coaching applied. This coaching approach is about opening up further possibilities for action for oneself.

The tetralemma is basically suitable for decisions of any form. The method helps to generate new ideas and thus to expand one's own scope for decision-making. A tetralemma constellation opens the horizon for innovative or alternative solutions that have not yet been thought of. In this way, decision-making processes can be shortened.

The tetralemma method is suitable when you cannot decide between two alternatives. Through the tetralemma constellation you get new impulses. The tetralemma is suitable for:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Clarification of next steps for decisions of any kind
  • Unblocking
  • Making visible previously overlooked decision-making needs
  • Identify strategic options

How to apply the tetralemma?

The tetralemma has a simple structure. A constellation does not require much preparation. The tetralemma instructions start with the description of the decision constellation. You will need a piece of paper and a pencil. Or a blank document that you open on your computer, laptop or tablet.

The following tetralemma example illustrates how the method is applied. Define the initial situation. This is the question that offers two decision options. However, both lead to an undesirable result. Weighing the pros and cons again would get you nowhere.

It's about deciding between yes or no, A or B. Do you have concerns because the decision-making process is difficult and the consequences of a decision cannot be predicted?

Is there perhaps a way to combine the two options? Look carefully at the four possibilities of the tetralemma method. Write the four tetralemma perspectives on a piece of paper or enter them into a Word document.

Collect arguments for each of the four options. Write them down. Look at the tetralemma list again. In which section are the most entries? Read the meaning of each tetralemma item and consider whether it helps you decide.

Tips for effective use of the method

In everyday life, decisions have to be made again and again. You decide for or against a study, a vocational training or a job offer. On a private level, decisions regarding Relationships, getting married, starting a family or simply for moving to another apartment.

Are you overwhelmed by the either-or decision-making process? You will only find out afterwards whether your considerations are correct. The tetralemma method facilitates decision-making by showing you other possible solutions. Want to use the tetralemma more effectively? Use the Tetralemma Method Guide to simplify your decision search.

First, name the most obvious scenario. Identify an opposite scenario. Ask yourself what can happen if both options meet? Look for new solutions that are not pursued by either scenario. Research arguments.

The tetralemma method is a decision matrix in which decision criteria are listed and evaluated with grades. However, the tetralemma cannot take away your own decision. However, your decision-making competence is improved by the systemic approach based on the tetralemma constellation. If the structural constellation does not provide a decision-making result at first glance, you can repeat the process at any time.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the tetralemma?

Uncertainty and Fear before wrong decisions can influence important decisions. The tetralemma method aims at sharpening the perception for additional solution approaches so that a suitable solution is found and the right decision is made. The tetralemma has advantages and disadvantages. The tetralemma advantages are:

  • Support in decision making
  • Versatile application possibilities professionally and privately
  • Reduction of decision blockades
  • Points of view are clarified
  • Decision-making processes are simplified and shortened

The following aspect may prove to be disadvantageous:

  • Uncertainty due to too many options

Used correctly, the tetralemma is an effective aid to decision making.


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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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