Yesterday’s post got me thinking about mind games we play with ourselves, particularly when we pretend not to know something. It brought to mind a nightly ritual with my daughter years ago.

Somewhere at around 18 months old, my little bundle of energy joy learned how to climb out of her crib. Unlike most toddlers, however, she was pretty savvy about it. She would wait a requisite amount of time after being tucked into bed before she would quietly steal from her room. Rather than announcing her presence, however, she would pad down the hall and stop just short of the doorway to the family room, lying down to position herself to see but not be seen.

The first few times I caught her were like a Laurel and Hardy skit. I’d find her and put her back in bed. She’d wait a few minutes and come back out. I’d find her and put her back in bed. She’d wait a few minutes and come back out. Both of us equally stubborn, we sometimes played this game all night.

After weeks of trying to find ways to keep her in bed, I eventually stumbled across an unconventional solution. I gave up. Sort of.

My scheme was this: as long as my little diva sweet pea didn’t know that I had seen her–and I almost always knew she was there–I would let her stay in the hallway. After all, she would fall asleep almost immediately, and wasn’t that what I wanted anyway? However, if she knew that I knew (stay with me here) that she was there, I had to take her back to her room.


It was all a clever mind trick, at least to my way of thinking. She had to see me as a firm parent who followed through. If I saw a problem, I had to solve it. If I didn’t see it, though, I couldn’t be held responsible for solving it. And if she didn’t know I had seen her, that counted as not seeing her.

I’m not recommending this course of action for anyone. It worked for me in this case–my daughter went to sleep at a reasonable hour and in calm fashion (just not in her bed), and I stopped making myself crazy over it–but it seems like pretty convoluted logic. What I find interesting isn’t the solution, but the logic behind it. Assuming I’m fairly normal, human beings will often perform complicated mental gymnastics to justify their actions. We go to great lengths to do what we want to do–and make it work in our heads.

This is an important concept to understand, not just in marketing, but simply in communicating with people. Whatever point you may be trying to drive home, you have to make it work for your audience. Give them a reason to embrace it that allows them to fit it into their world. Make it work for them; don’t make them jump through hoops.

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