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Potential maximisation: Tactics of goodness of fit

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There are two key aspects of Goodness of Fit:

  1. choosing social settings where success is likely, and
  2. avoiding or minimising entry into social settings where success is unlikely.

Knowing which social and professional settings fit best is often a case of aimless trial and error for many people living with deafness. But this can be significantly reduced by playing the “percentage game.”

Golf is a good example of the percentage game. The pro golfer tees up on a short par 4. He considers his options for getting a good score on this hole. He could drive the ball 330 yards to the green with a 1-wood if he wished. But a creek snakes before the green, which is protected by sand traps. Smashing a 1-wood to the green is a low percentage shot. There is perhaps a 15 percent chance of getting a good score because the drive could stray into trouble. The pro instead chooses the higher percentages – a 5-iron tee shot to the fairway. He will then pitch to the green before putting the ball for a birdie. This strategy has about an 85 percent chance of success with this hole.

The percentage game can also be applied to social contexts by people who are deaf. A Goodness of Fit with professional pursuits, individual people and social settings are explained below.

Goodness of Fit: Career

My Desire column explained how to find a Goodness of Fit by planning a professional career. Tristan’s long-term goal of being an archaeologist was an example of his choosing a good fit. Pursuing academic subjects based on his personal strengths gave him a high percentage chance of success. Tristan’s low percentage pursuits, however, would be choosing subjects that have a poor fit with his strengths and desires.

Goodness of Fit is different for everybody. That is why I asked, “What are your child’s talents and weaknesses?” in my last column. These talents and weaknesses will significantly determine your child’s potential Goodness of Fit – socially and professionally. For example, someone who has a passion for cars may make an excellent mechanic, body painter or panel beater. Their career of best fit is with cars and not a profession with, say, an academic slant (e.g., archaeology).

Given these concepts, mentors play an important role in helping younger people who are deaf achieve their Goodness of Fit. For example, I met a very talented 17-year-old writer who is deaf who wanted to move from Boston to New York. He explained how a New Yorker journalist who is deaf gave him good career advice, including deafness-related tips. A mentor can therefore help smooth the path of Goodness of Fit into a world that may be particularly difficult to enter alone.

Goodness of Fit: Individual People

My Persistence column explained how Joshua found a Goodness of Fit with Andrea using tailor-made conversational strategies. If you re-read that column, you may find that personalised topics of conversation are high-percentage pursuits. Given this, impersonal topics are low-percentage pursuits. Using personalised conversational topics therefore improves your chances of finding a Goodness of Fit with another person.

The percentage game also works in dating. Daniel is an average kind of guy with an endearing, easy-going manner. He had a friendly, enjoyable and lasting conversation with Helen at a party. He suggested they meet again when parting. Helen’s cool response was, “I am kind of busy at the moment.” Later, he had an instant rapport with Melissa that lasted an hour. Her enthusiastic response to meeting again was: “I know a cool café downtown.” Both women gave him their number but their responses are different. Daniel’s pursuit of Helen likely has a 20 percent chance of success whereas pursuing Melissa has a 70 percent chance. Daniel texted Helen the next day, who replied 24 hours later, “Can’t make it this week. Rain check?” He followed up and her slow reply was “Something has popped up, maybe later.” Daniel’s pursuit of Helen came to nothing. Melissa, however, replied to Daniel’s text within an hour. They met, enjoyed two hours together and parted with a warm hug. In time, after courting, they became a couple. These two outcomes are not surprising. High percentage pursuits are more likely to produce rewards than low percentage pursuits.

Goodness of Fit: Social Settings

We learn our individual strengths and weaknesses through social exposure. We also learn our high, medium and low percentage zones, which are social settings that can be ranked according to levels of difficulty.

High Percentage Zones (75 percent and above)
High percentage zones are settings where chances of social inclusion are high and the chances of social rejection are minimal. Examples include one-on-one conversations, watching captioned movies with friends, and a party or workplace/classroom where people know how to communicate with people who are deaf. These settings are familiar to us and communication is relatively easy. People appreciate us for who we are and, when necessary, know our communication needs. The key, however, is to spend much time in these settings where our social or professional success is likeliest.

Medium Percentage Zones (50 to 75 percent)
Social inclusion in the medium-ranked percentage zone is reasonably achievable. Yet, the chances of social difficulty or rejection are comparatively higher than in the high percentage zones. Examples are small group conversations, a party or workplace/classroom with a handful of known acquaintances, and talking with a stranger/acquaintance that has had a close relationship with a person who is deaf. These settings may be familiar to us, but communication is not easy. Regardless, the key is to persevere in these social or professional settings.

Low Percentage Zones (50 percent and below)
Low percentage zones are compromised by less-than-ideal external social factors. Examples include large group conversations, attending a movie without subtitles, and a party full of individuals who may have never met a person who is deaf. These difficulties may be caused by your deafness, poor lighting, background noise, personality factors (e.g., lack of common interests), or not having a trusted friend present to ease communication. The key is to avoid or minimise entry into these social settings. When you do find yourself in such situations the conversational strategy outlined in my Persistence column may help. As too may assertiveness (e.g., “Can we move to a quieter place with more light to talk?”)

Above all, risk-taking improves our lifestyle. There are no guarantees, but there are percentages. It is easy to stumble through a series of low percentage disasters, to repeat mistakes, curse ill-fortune and envy lucky loved ones. But consider this: continuously choosing low percentage pursuits is mostly poor choice-making, not bad luck. Much luck and chance is removed when one actually thinks about and plays the percentage game.

Goodness of Fit is the sixth of eight themes that create Potential Maximisation. The following exercise will assist your child’s Goodness of Fit in real life.

Use the list of your child’s talents and weaknesses and rank them according to the high, medium, and low percentage zones outlined above. For example, if your child is good at a particular sport, then the sport will be a high percentage zone to pursue. Try listing three individual strengths and weaknesses for each of the percentage zones.

The following question prepares you for the next column’s theme of Learned Creativity.

Question: Watch the following video of Coldplay’s song “Fix You” at

“Limitations are troublesome, but they are effective…To be sparing saves us from humiliation…Discretion is of prime importance in preparing the way for momentous things.” -The I Ching, China, approx. 800 B.C.

Next: Tactics of Learned Creativity


The contents of these columns are copyright of Dr. Paul Jacobs (PhD). All rights reserved. Reproduction of all or any substantial part of the contents in any form is prohibited. No part of Dr Paul Jacobs’ material on Potential Maximisation may be distributed or copied for any commercial purpose without expressed approval by the author.




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