A friend comes to you with a tough problem - he's having to choose between two bad options. Thing is he neither wants the rock nor the hard place. Neither the devil nor the deep sea!
What advice do you give him?
Instead of thinking through the pros and cons of both options, maybe you should consider telling him a story.
The flagpole story.
In this article, writer and podcaster Jason Feifer shares this story (orignally told by Marc Rudolph, cofounder of Netflix):
The year is 1970. The Kent State shootings (an unfortunate incident when Ohio National Guard shot unarmed student protestors) just took place, and a group of students walk into their local McDonald’s with a demand: The store must lower its flag to half-staff.
The store complies. The flag is lowered.
The company’s then-chairman, Ray Kroc, hears about this and is upset. He demands that the store raise the flag back up. So the flag goes back up.
Now the students are upset. They march back into the store and threaten to burn the place down unless the flag is re-lowered.
The store manager is freaked out. There is no good solution here — either he upsets the students and loses his store, or he upsets McDonald’s chairman and possibly loses his career.
So he calls Fred Turner, the president of McDonald’s, and asks for advice.
“Tell you what to do,” Turner replies. “The next delivery truck that arrives, have him back into the flagpole and knock it down.”
Problem solved: If there’s no flagpole, there’s nothing to fight over.
Sometimes the best between two bad options is a third one.
Here's how Jason summarises the insight:
When we’re stuck between two bad options, our mindsets become fixed. We think: These are the only options. And then we stop getting creative.
But of course, there are always more options. Always! When we knock the flagpole down, we are clearing out space to see beyond our problems. We are giving ourselves permission to take action, rather than to simply settle.
Knock the flagpole down.
A neat example of an analogy story to make your point.