The Third Choice

by | Dec 17, 2020 | Learning

Yes or No. Black or white. Mine or Yours. Cake or biscuit. This or that. Trousers or shorts. Skirt or Dress.

Framing choices as binary narrow the options down with the hope this will make a decision easier. At least that’s my hope in the morning when our kids are struggling to choose what to wear. The third shirt option opens up too many mental possibilities and seems to reduce decision making, especially in our son. My daughter on the other hand, rejects my options and makes an entirely different choice.

We do this all the time with data, especially identity data. Is it a right or an asset? Is it about security or utility? Privacy or Access? Portability or Protection? And so on.

Adding a third (or fourth, fifth) option to the mix reminds us choices are rarely binary. When things are presented or framed as binary, much has been stripped away. Decided for us. Assumed. Most of life has an interconnected nature to it and therefore it’s not this or that.

When we pit perspectives against each other, we make it a competition and a fight. However, if we reframe it as learning, we can ask people to share their perspective not as I’m right, but rather ‘here’s what we learn by viewing identity as an asset’. And someone else presents ‘here’s what we learn by viewing identity as a right’. And then a third and fourth perspective. Perhaps after listening to each other, we can ask ‘What do we know now that we didn’t at the before we started?’

Too often we are not interested in learning, we are interested in winning. Perhaps it’s time to add a third option?

Photo by Jake Hills


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