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I'm not going to shower today.

The days are getting shorter, the shadows are getting longer, and pumpkin spice is everywhere, which means it’s my favorite season of the year–fall!


Fall in San Francisco isn’t about busting out the cozy sweaters and taking long walks over crunchy leaves, it’s the three weeks of the year where the sun comes out, the only time when my hairy legs make an appearance. Also, it’s birthday party season–pizza, bouncy houses and cake EVERY FREAKIN’ WEEKEND. Yes, every child in SF seems to be born between September and November. It's the strangest phenomenon in this city. I blame cold, damp winters.


My son turned 6 this week and magically transformed from a caged pandemic monster to a model kindergartner who’s winning behavior awards on the regular. (Yes I’m a gloating, beaming Dad.)


Ori growing up also has some negative consequences for Dad. This kid is turning into the toughest negotiator that I have to contend with. He’s clear on his goals and willing to go to extreme lengths to get what he wants; he anchors high and never backs down. He also knows the perfect time to launch his attacks–when I’m exhausted and hungry.


The past few weeks he’s been launching his daily campaign right around 7:30pm. “Dad, I’m not going to shower today.” Great, here we go again! After multiple different tactics from candy bribery to the nuclear option - shutting down the wifi in the house, it was turning into all-out war and I was losing ground.


That was, until I deployed my one-two punch of Framing + Options.


At 7:15pm, I started launching my own offense: "Ori, how would you like to clean your body today?" (Framing). Would you like to take a shower, a tubby, or I can hose you down in the backyard (Options). Suddenly he stopped arguing with me and started exploring his options, sometimes even with excitement. I got complete compliance from there on out. He loved having the agency to choose, it provided him variety and entertainment and I got a clean kid to snuggle. (Luckily he only chose the hose option only once.)


Now let’s unpack how this gangster parenting hack works in work and life.


Every human being (especially my 6 year old) wants to have freedom and control over their lives. The minute that sense of agency feels threatened, all the defense systems go up and there is no chance your ideas will be let in. Yet everyday as professionals, parents, and partners, we need to find ways to let other people have our way.


What is the Framing Effect?


The framing effect is when our decisions are influenced by the way information is presented. Equivalent information can be more or less attractive depending on what features are highlighted. (Source: The Decision Lab)



For example, imagine you’re shopping for yogurt at the grocery store. Are you more likely to reach for the one that says “80% fat free” or “contains 20% milk fat?”


Breaking down the mechanics of how this works, think of taking a photo. What goes inside the frame, the perspective the shot is taken from, what’s in focus, and what’s out of focus are all factors that the photographer has control over, and that greatly influences the audience's perception of the photo.


Why Provide a Menu of Options?


The most powerful way to allow for agency is to provide a menu of options and let people pick their path. The key here is that you’re controlling the option set, and any of the options that your counterpart chooses is going your way. When you give people multiple options, it short circuits the brain. They stop focusing on what is wrong with whatever you suggested or the various things they don’t like and they start focusing on which of the presented options is best for them.



This is a tactic I’ve seen designers deploy deftly at work. They will never, ever show a client just one design. That’s setting up the client to just poke holes at the work and focus on the aspects of their hopes and dreams that aren’t coming through in the design. Good designers always present three designs allowing the client agency to pick which direction they like best.

In summary, try this with your partner the next time you’re both deciding what show to watch or which restaurant to order from:

  1. Control the frame: You decide what goes in and out and the order in which you present the information. Make sure that you’re happy with any of the outcomes chosen.

  2. Provide 2-4 options: Presenting options demonstrates that you’re open, flexible, creative, and cooperative. It short-circuits your counterparts brain and makes them focus on picking the option that’s best for them.

  3. Use questions, not statements: Asking questions gives the other person a sense of control. Being told what to do instantly puts up defenses.

Ex: “Honey, what do you feel like watching tonight, Nine Perfect Strangers, Ted Lasso or White Lotus? (Bridgeton was selectively left off the list. That’s for her solo consumption). Thank you to one of our readers Geoff, for writing in and suggesting today’s newsletter topic. I’d love to interview any of you that feel inspired to share a nugget of wisdom with the supportive community here. Be brave, reply to this email, and let’s chat next week. I promise it’ll be fun.

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