The McDonald’s gambit

A long while ago I read about a concept the author called “the McDonald’s gambit”. Some web sleuthing couldn’t find it, and I use this idea all the time. So this is me recording it for future citation.

Imagine you’re with a group of people. Maybe friendly aquaintances, or coworkers. Maybe just you and your girlfriend. You’re trying to figure out where to go eat.

No one suggests an idea. There’s just silence. Probably because no one wants to impose their views on others — but in respecting people’s preferences they aren’t respecting their time or ability to speak up for themselves.

You need to break this logjam. You don’t need to propose an actually good idea. That’s kind of unhelpful, really. The point isn’t to impose your favorite restaurant on the group. The point is to start discussion. The tactic is to provoke them by making an outlandishly bad suggestion.

Say this — “how about we get McDonald’s?”

“McDonald’s!?” someone will cry out. “I mean we might as well go to Thai Thanic, that’s better than McDonald’s. Eww”.

Then someone will say “Oh, I don’t like Thai Thanic, let’s try Kumquat Kitchen”.

And presto! You’ve successfully jolted real preferences to be expressed. All through the power of the McDonalds Gambit.

(And of course, pro-tip, it doesn’t have to be just about food.)

Cross-posting to my substack