“Always give people options.”

When I was in college someone* I looked up to asked me what do people want more than anything else?  Of course, I am sure I answered some trite thing, to which he replied, “Options.”

This lesson has probably been one of the truer things that I found in life, both as a father, a salesman, and for my own self.

As a father, I see how much better my young children reply to the question of “Would you like to go to camp in your pajamas or would you like to get dressed first”, when telling them to get dressed would only result in stone walling.

As a salesman, I have seen how by giving someone two applicants for a position makes them EXCITED about the candidate they select instead of just giving them the one candidate that I really liked in the first place.

For myself, I see it when, they offer me which Vodka I prefer in my cocktail, which means I was involved in prepping my overpriced drink – and enjoy it more than I might otherwise have.

I noticed this can serve as a great therapeutic option as well, that was used by Milton Erickson:

I usually say, “There are a number of things that you don’t want me to know about, that you don’t want to tell me. There are a lot of things about yourself that you don’t want to discuss, therefore let’s discuss those that you are willing to discuss.” She has blanket permission to withhold anything and everything. But she did come to discuss things. And therefore she starts discussing this, discussing that. And it’s always “Well, this is all right to talk about.” And before she’s finished, she has mentioned everything.

Since this seems to be true, let’s look at a few reason why 1) choice is so important and 2) why we end up with a better outcome when we give options.

Here is what I came up with.

Choice is important because it gets into the issue of control and free will.  We like to be in control of our own lives.  It gives us a false sense of security, and we love being secure.  So by having a choice, we don’t think about other options that we might have thought of on our own due to lazy thinking, and simply choose.

Further, by being involved in the process we are much more likely to be happy with the outcome.  This is because we can only blame ourselves if the outcome is bad, since we were involved, and since we don’t like to blame ourselves, we are much more likely to justify our own actions – and create a positive spin on things.

So by learning to always give options you can help make people more happy with their choices.

* This lesson was taught to me by Dovid Friedman when I was in school in Maryland.

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