Ask Ariely: On Switching Stylists, Blood Loss, and a Broadcasting Behavior

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

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Dear Dan,

I am 65 and have been going to the same hair salon for ten years. I have gotten to know well the experienced stylist who cuts my hair. Recently, she had to cancel two appointments, so I got my hair cut by her former protégé, who works at the same shop. I discovered that I like the way the protégé cuts my hair better. I don’t see any way of switching to the younger stylist because of the social problems it will cause me and the stylists themselves. Both of them work the same hours on the same days.

I guess at my age, I just have to live with it. But I wonder, using my situation as an example, how can someone make such a change when faced with a similar dilemma?

—Alvin 

I don’t think you have to resign yourself to worse haircuts. You could instead use a positive message to tell your long-time stylist that you’d like to switch. You could tell her that you are trying to make changes in as many areas of your life as possible—and that if she doesn’t mind, you would like to try the other stylist. At age 65, why not take the statement seriously and try to change some other things in your life and explore other new directions?

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Dear Dan,

When my grandfather died in a house fire decades ago, he had been a blood donor for 70 years. I made it my mission to continue donating “for him.” I lived in Belgium at the time and donated with the Red Cross every 3 months.

When I moved to California, I decided to continue donating blood, but there was a problem: I had to lie on the questionnaire about whether I had spent time in Europe in the 1980s. The fear was contamination from mad cow disease. There was never a case of it in Belgium, ever, so I didn’t feel that I had to disclose that part of my past. After my most recent donation, the Red Cross became suspicious of my personal history, and now they have caught me. I am convinced that my blood will be destroyed and I will be barred from donating ever again.

I am beyond sad and feel that I broke my promise to my dead grandfather. What advice do you have to offer me?

—Christie 

From time to time, we all experience rules that we think are strange, crazy, over strict, applied inappropriately and so on. But we also have to remember that very large organizations like the Red Cross have to create some rules in order to operate efficiently and safely. It would have been better not to lie to the Red Cross, even at the cost of not being able to donate blood.

As for your commitment to your grandfather, I think that you should understand it only as doing your best to donate. You have no control over whether the Red Cross accepts your blood, and you should not blame yourself. Given that you still want to honor your grandfather, how about donating money to the Red Cross or a local burn unit?

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Dear Dan,

What’s the best way to deal with a difficult teenage boy? He stays out as much he can; he’s rude and dismissive; and he refuses to do chores. Whenever he’s away from home, he’s charming. Any suggestions?

—Claudia 

The good news is that he is charming away from home, which means that he is capable of being nice. Sadly, he does not seem to be interested in acting this way with you.

What if you set up a webcam in a very visible part of the house and made it clear that his behavior would be streaming to Facebook for his friends to see? That way, he might bring his outside behavior into the house. After a few weeks of this, he might develop new habits toward his family, and you could turn off the camera (but maybe keep it there unplugged, just as a reminder).

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.