hmm I wonder if the respose to the quotes has anything to do with how likely one is to honestly forget taking out the trash. I forget to do things all the time, and so find the refrazing useful. (I also would most likely already be feeling guilty about it)

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@ Patri: Isn't this the same idea as "separate the position from the people while negotiating" in Ury and Fisher's "Getting to Yes"?

The key flaw here is to frame the entire issue in a cognitive, wholly rational frame. Rationality is bounded, mainly because in practice human cognition has limitations. Unless factors such as the power imbalance and unstated agendas are taken into account, the problem will not be solved using just rational framings.

The person who quoted Calvin is spot-on but the parent has to remember and exercise some authority over the child. Some things are non-negotiable (tidying your room, washing your hands before eating etc), and for everything else, it is worth remembering that the other party is also a learning entity.

@ Stu: FWIW I was a very naughty and hyperactive child, who was often punished as an example to my siblings who are exceptionally well-behaved and polite. I still got straight As through school, college, and triple dose of graduate school. There was some negotiation with my father, there were some rewards, but mostly there were house rules which we followed without so much as a peep.

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Hi. I'm the guy who wrote the original "The Problem" concept.

To be clear, the idea is that you can take any situation resulting in a negative outcome and deal with it without blame. Because, in my opinion, if you're the parent, you're the manager. And if your kid screws up, as a good manager, you know that casting blame on the employee is not going to empower them. And an empowered kid, like an empowered employee, will reveal benefits that increase over time, just as the mistakes will decrease over time.

Some of you may believe in punishment, but to you, I provide my lone example: We don't yell, hit, or punish our children. They, in turn, bring home straight A report cards, are marvelously polite in public, helpful around the house, and caring of others.

We don't have to turn into our parents. There are other options.

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"It does not always work - your bid for connection may be refused, with the person insisting that The Problem is yours to deal with."

"Bid for connection...." Looks like Patri has been either reading John Gottman's books (esp. The Relationship Cure), or is close with someone who has. It's a great concept for looking at relationships, and Gottman's empirical research on the relationship between "bidding" and how they are received is quite valuable. Well, to me at least.

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Maybe economists do this. But I've heard that philosophers are often so mean-spirited in their arguments that it deters people who might make very good philosophers from entering the profession.

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It helps if you really believe what you're saying. If you try the technique but you don't feel in your gut that the problem is separate from the person then your words are more likely to sound forced and ring false. It's like trying to force a smile when you don't feel like smiling.

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I think your examples serve only to highlight that, while verbal acrobatics can be powerful, they are not always forces for good.

Too often I have seen people clumsily attempting to reframe a situation, resulting in the "recipients" feeling disrespected and patronized.

Much like they would in the examples you give in your post ;)

Thanks for the thought provoking post.

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I find that this advice works well, not just with others, but especially with myself! Once I remove "me" from the picture, it's much easier to deal with a problem that might otherwise seem intimidating or deceptively personal. To illustrate, say I'm playing chess. If I think in terms of, "Where am I going to move? My opponent is going to get me, he's probably planning something that I don't see, I'd better not screw up ...," then these feelings are likely to cloud my judgment, leading me to make a bad decision. It's much better for me to say, "This is the state of the board. What is white's best move?"

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To quote Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes:

"If you do the job badly enough, sometimes you don't get asked to do it again."

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Who Says Economics Causes Asperger's?

Patri son of David son of Milton begins by approvingly quoting Stu:When I have a problem that concerns one of...

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In my experience, talking to someone as though they were on your team when they actually do not share your specific or general interests is likely to annoy them.

Presumably the engineer wants to improve his performance... and possibly the teenager wants to do a better job of completing his assigned chores. But if these are not the respective cases, the suggested method will be patronizing and obnoxious.

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Good post, but I don't think the example of taking out the trash is congruent with good parenting techniques. If your kid isn't taking out the trash, that's a failure of personal responsibility. You should NOT be on their "reminding" team with this task, because they alone are accountable for it.

Instead, you should just train them to be responsible by dispassionately providing some immediate negative consequence (that you previously explained would happen), which can even be as over-the-top as dumping trash on their bedroom floor. Don't have a talk with them, just casually act like that consequence is hardwired into the kid-parent-garbage system.

Kids are almost never too retarded or incompetent to carry out a task like remembering to take out the trash. They are just opportunists who want to maximize their pleasure given their knowledge of the world around them - not unlike adults! So if you invent a system where trash gets dumped on their floor, they'll deeply associate (in a Pavlovian way) their lack of responsibility with an immediate, relevant, unambiguous negative consequence.

Even though you're not directly on the "reminding" team, you're still on their general "life help" team with this problem, because they can come to you for help and advice, and you don't act mean to them or anything. So implementing an effective system to teach PERSONAL responsibility is actually compatible with the ideas in this post.

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Hasn't worked. Won't work. At least, not on problems that really need to be solved, rather than on problems that would "sure would make life easier if solved."

In your examples, no amount of counter-posing the problem would help when the very principle of 'trash removal' or 'software testing' is not accepted to be valid.

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