Social Decisions

Making Social Decisions

We all make social choices but we rarely take the time to think about them. Social skills and experiences are a very important part of your college experience. It is important, therefore, that you make intelligent decisions about how you relate to the other people in your lives.

Social Decisions with your family and old friendsMeredith has several important decisions to make about her friends and family.

Meredith has several decisions to make.  Andy, wants her to go skiing with him and his family for Thanksgiving. Meredith’s family expects her to come home for Thanksgiving. Her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will all be there.

She is getting email from her high school friend, Amy. Meredith would  like to stay friends with Amy, but thinks it’s annoying to get emails nearly every day.

Her little sister calls a couple times a week about problems she is having. Meredith doesn’t mind talking to her occasionally, but her sister goes on and on.

Meredith’s parents are extremely conservative. They’d be horrified to know that her roommate is an atheist, and that Meredith has friends who are African-Americans and  Asian, friends that are Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, and Mormon, and several friends who are gay or lesbian. Should she tell her parents?

Other students have similar problems to deal with.


Rosita has a professor with a heavy accent. Her friends laugh about him. Rosita is offended because her parents also speak with an accent. She thinks the professor is really intelligent and that he’s working hard to make the lessons interesting. Will her “friends” turn against her if she defends him?

Jim is making an effort to get to know his professors better but, just as he starts to the professor’s office, someone stops him who wants to talk. Jim told one person he needed to talk to the professor and his friend laughed . He thinks Jim is trying to be a teacher’s pet.

One freshman girl has a serious problem. She has a wonderful English Literature professor and spent a lot of time talking to him. One day, the professor asked her to dinner so they could continue the conversation. That seemed to be OK. But afterwards, he asked if she’d like to go to a motel with him so they could “get to know each other better.” She didn’t know what to say at first, but managed to say no. Now she’s afraid to get near him. She doesn’t want to report him. After all, they didn’t do anything. He just suggested it. And besides, he’s a really great teacher and she’d never want him to get in trouble. The problem is that it was hard to avoid her professor.

Carlos is having a problem with his Psychology professor. Carlos sometimes disagrees with his professor but when he tries to explain his point of view, the professor interrupts him, tells Carlos he doesn’t know enough to have an opinion yet, and then goes to the next student’s question. Carlos doesn’t think it would do any good to talk to the professor in person.

Social Decisions with Friends

Harry and his roommate are very different. Should Harry try to get along with his roommate or look for someone else to live with next semester?

Angie thinks Jimmy is sweet but he’s shorter than she is, a little overweight, and not that good-looking.  She says “Aaron is unbelievable handsome. All the girls would be so jealous if I got a date with Aaron. Sure he is arrogant, but I can deal with that. After all, I’m not talking about marrying him.” What advice would you give Angie?

Some of  Marla’s friends want her to go with them to a fraternity party. Marla knows there’s always a lot of drinking at this fraternity. She could stay home and study. She could go along and enjoy the experience. She could go with them but refuse to drink. They might think she’s a prude but she know it’s better to drink only when she’s with people she trusts totally.

Alvin just met three super-nice and very pretty girls. He’d really like to go out with Marcie. The problem is that all of the girls make racist remarks and Marcie thinks anyone who is gay or lesbian is some kind of pervert. Alvin doesn’t know if he should hang out with them and try to change their way of thinking or find friends who are more open-minded.

Eddie met some friendly kids during orientation. Now they have been bragging about cheating on tests and shoplifting. One boy even told the group how he took a girl to a party, got her drunk, and had sex with her after she passed out. But Eddie can’t think how to explain that he’s avoiding them, and now making new friends will be hard.

Are you looking for the answers?

The best answer I can give you is that you really need to make a decision for yourself. When you realize you have a problem, the worst thing to do is let things go on and on without making a decision.

And how do you make an intelligent decision?

1. Problem and causes:  Get a sheet of paper and  write down the problem. Explain the causes of the problem. It’s easier to find a solution when you understand the cause.

2. List possible choices. Do not stop at two or three choices. Try brainstorming. Create a list of 5-10 choices.

3. Think about your values. What is important to you?  You can make new friends but you cannot choose different parents.  You want to be honest, but you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you tell your parent about your friends will they insist that you drop out of college? My father would have stopped supporting me.

4. Narrow your list of choices to three or four possibilities.

5. Create a chart. List choices with good and bad consequences for each.  As you do this, you might think of other choices, of ways to compromise.

6. Talk to a friend. If you have someone you trust, ask their opinion. Talk to a counselor or someone in your church, synagogue, or other religious organization. Think of people whose opinion you respect and ask yourself what each of them would recommend. You should NOT, however, do what your real or virtual friends suggest. You must make your own decision.

7. Sleep on it. It is often helpful to get a good night’s sleep. You might even put it off for several days. But eventually you need to make the decision.

8. Make the decision and carry it out. Have that conversation. Explain to your friends why you won’t be doing things with them any more. Go out and make new friends.

Reflections on Decision-Making

If you had a very difficult time making a decision, it might be that several decisions were pretty good ones. You probably didn’t make a mistake.  When you made the decision, you considered possible consequences so, if you suffer because of your decision, you shouldn’t say “But, I had no idea that would happen. You knew and were willing to accept that possibility.

If I had been in Jack’s position, I would have discussed my friends at home without mentioning their race, religion, or sexual identification. And I would have explained to my friends why I couldn’t invite them home. I grew up in the segregated south. I did go out several time with an African-American boy when I was up north. I wrote to my parents and told them Joe was “tall, dark and handsome.” I just didn’t say how dark. I didn’t want to be dishonest, but I didn’t want to get my father so upset that he “felt physically sick.”  I didn’t want him force my mother to choose between supporting him or me. It was a responsible decision. After my father passed away, I told my mother. She said I had made the right decision.

2. You need to understand that there isn’t one best answer for such questions. The answer that might be the best choice for me is likely to be quite different from the answer that is right for you. The answer that is right for you as a freshman might be different from the answer that is right when you are a senior.

If you have a problem, you can describe it below and ask for advice.  You can offer advice to to others.  You can also use “Contact Judy” if you don’t want your question or problem made public. I can’t tell you what you should do. You have to make that decision. But I can suggest alternatives you might not have considered.

Goal-based Decisions            Personal Decisions        Most-difficult Decisons

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