Jan 292013 7 Responses

Are You Brilliant or a Sucker?

In their book Crucial Conversations, authors Patterson, Grenny, McMillian, and Switzler warn about the sucker’s choice. It is the false assumption that there are only two options to solve a problem.

It is the classic either/or.

Generally, both choices are bad because neither will appease all parties. Having only two options, spouses, co-workers, or friends choose their sides and then fight for their choice.

The result is conflict.

Instead of working together to negotiate a solution, two partners become adversaries believing the other stands in the way of a resolution. For progress to be made, one person or party must be defeated, a winner and loser must be declared.

Winning and losing is an effective dichotomy on a playing field, but its dangerous in a bedroom, its less than ideal in a boardroom, and it can be destructive for a country.

Very rarely should options be narrowed to two. Nearly always, there are more choices—options that don’t demand a winner and a loser, ideas which might call for compromise but can also lead to joint satisfaction. The challenge is to identify other opportunities.

By brainstorming more alternatives, adversaries become partners working together to find solutions instead of fighting against one another for their way.

Every time we face an either/or scenario, our first task should not be to take a side but to brainstorm other alternatives.

Anytime we believe our greatest problem is another person, we have likely fallen for the sucker’s choice. Whenever we think there is one obvious answer to a problem, we have likely fallen for the sucker’s choice. Life is rarely simple. Solutions are rarely perfect. We are never 100% right.

Only suckers believe they are absolutely right, another person is absolutely wrong, a complex problem is obvious, and if the other person would submit to us everything would be perfect.

In what area of life are you being a sucker?

How has America fallen for the sucker’s choice in gun control? In the fiscal cliff? In politics?

How have you fallen for the sucker’s choice in parenting? In your marriage?



7 Responses to Are You Brilliant or a Sucker?
  1. Denny Neff Reply

    Boy, Sucker’s Choice… Is it a sucker’s choice to believe that the other guy is the sucker (haha) Great wisdom, sadly however, I do struggle with this issue, but I’m trying my best to change. In my defense it’s really hard when we live in a society that seems bent on taking an us and/or them approach to virtually EVERYTHING. Thanks again for shining a BRIGHT light on such an ugly problem. I loved this article.

    • Kevin Reply

      Denny, we all fall for the sucker’s choice. I find when frustration is high it’s often a sign I’ve bought into it. Few things can help a marriage as much as realizing this temptation and always looking for a 3rd option.

  2. Caleb Reply

    I still enjoy believing that the third of the political spectrum I am apart of is golden, the third that half-way agrees with me is okay but wishy washy, and the third that doesn’t agree with me is the problem. JK.

    • Kevin Reply

      Caleb, my problem is that half the time I don’t agree with myself.

  3. jbradmd Reply

    I like the phrase “If I agree with you, we’ll both be wrong” 🙂

    • Kevin Reply

      I wouldn’t try that at home Jim.

  4. […] 3. Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillian, and Switzler Communication is one of my f... kevinathompson.com/my-5-favorite-books

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