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Strategic Forgetting

 

Techniques General persuasion > Being Right > Strategic Forgetting

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

When talking about something that has been said or done would be inconvenient, awkward or embarrassing, act as if it had never happened.

Strategic forgetting can be very selective, forgetting things best left quiet while still remembering things worth keeping.

Typical situations where strategic forgetting is useful include when you have predicted something would happen, but it did not, and when other people have said or done things they probably regret and you want to help them save face.

The simplest type of strategic forgetting is when you do not bring up the subject and others do not mention it. If other people bring up the subject then you have to decide whether you would be successful in claiming not to remember. You may even be able to counter a claim with flat denial. It can be surprising how often a strong assertion that something did not happen is actually accepted.

There are hence four types of strategic forgetting: mutual ignoring, claimed forgetting, flat denial and heated argument.

Example

A classic use of strategic forgetting happens in business when objectives have not been met and people just act as if they had not made any commitment to them.

Another use of strategic forgetting is where a mystic ignores failed predictions (while trumpeting their successes from the rooftops).

Discussion

A common purpose of strategic forgetting is to save face -- yours or other people's. It may also be used to avoid getting into further difficulties.

Sometimes strategic forgetting is to avoid punishment. Many children, and adults too, when caught red-handed will still brazenly deny guilt. It is surprising how often this bold strategy works. Simple confidence persuades surprisingly often, even in the presence of incriminating evidence.

See also

Forgetting

 

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