This post is part of a series about The Paradox of Choice, a book about why more is less. Leave a comment below and I may randomly pick you to win one of three autographed copies. Read more of this series.
Most choices have trade-offs. Rarely is one option better in every way than another. How you think about what you pick can greatly effect the outcome.
The book has an example of a custody battle. The jury has a list of qualities of two parents, relating to income, health, and relationship with the child.
|Parent A||Parent B|
|Average income||Above-average income|
|Average health||Minor health problems|
|Average working hours||Lots of work-related travel|
|Reasonable rapport with child||Very close relationship with the child|
|Relatively stable social life||Extremely active social life|
It’s pretty much a draw, but it turns out who gets chosen varies significantly based on how the question is asked.
Question 1: To which parent would you award sole custody of the child?
Answer 1: 64% choose Parent B.
Question 2: Which parent would you deny sole custody of the child?
Answer 2: only 55% choose Parent B.
Difficult choices like this set people off on a chase for reasons to justify their decisions. In the first instance, they are looking for a reason to accept a parent. In the second instance, people are looking for reasons to reject a parent.
When we are looking for the good, it’s easy to spot. Of course, it can be easy to see the negatives, too. But then, if the pessimist is to rule out an option because of the negatives, he must also rule out its positives.
That’s what I call the pessimist’s dilemma. That’s when you realize the opportunities you’re passing up, and so starts the maximizing.
For yourself, your customers, and for simplicity’s sake, avoid the pessimist’s dilemma. I say keep things positive.