It Has To Be This Way

Liz Sumner Choice, Decision-making Leave a Comment

I was a founding member of a community theatre group and a few years ago we were putting on a show. My partner, Traci, and I had gathered the cast together for a pep talk before the final dress rehearsal. Traci is a brilliant sales person who can make someone thoroughly enjoy writing a blank check. She was giving the folks last minute instructions and reminded them that today was the last chance to buy their show t-shirts so they better hurry up. I added that it didn’t really matter because we had plenty and they’d be available whenever. Traci turned to me in disbelief and said, “If you had to sell for a living you’d starve.”

I really am a terrible salesperson. While I can think of all of the reasons why it makes sense for you to buy from me, I also feel compelled to mention the reasons why you might not want to.

That’s the way my mind works– I see possibilities and I reject absolutes. If someone blithely comes to me saying, “It has to be this way” I resist, sometimes perversely, just to demonstrate that there are options. Okay, maybe they aren’t good ones, but there are choices nonetheless.

Many people find too many choices overwhelming. In 2000 psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted a study with jam at an upscale food market that showed the more isn’t always better. “The large display (24 varieties) attracted more interest than the small one (6 varieties). But when the time came to purchase, people who saw the large display were one-tenth as likely to buy as people who saw the small display.”

More options enable us to have better outcomes but can increase our dissatisfaction.

Freedom of choice is deeply important to me, and I may be more comfortable with it because I have good decision-making skills. I am not easily swayed by “time’s running out act now” pressure. I am able to determine in the moment what the criteria should be.

I’m putting together a How To Guide for decision-making and I’d like your help to make it really useful. What kinds of decisions are the toughest for you to make? What kinds of choice situations are the most stressful?

Just leave a comment and tell me what comes to mind. I’ll report the results and my best suggestions in an upcoming blog post.

Do it or else.

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