Practicing Agency

Dec 4, 2021 09:01 · 289 words · 2 minute read Agency

Agency is where you act to achieve your goals. Unfortunately agency is hard and not the default state.

Social nudging is a powerful way to combat this. Here are a few lightly-edited conversations that I’ve observed or participated in that pushed towards more agency:


P1: There’s a fire ~20 miles away and it’s raining ash.

P2: Do you have an air purifier?

P1: … no, I should get one. Amazon says it’ll arrive next week.

P2: I bet Home Depot has one you could get tonight.

P1: On it.


P1: I’m having trouble sleeping.

P2: Do you know why?

P1: No…

P2: Why don’t you try figure out why?

P1: … right.


P1: I really like fried rice.

P2: You know you can make it, right?

P1: That sounds like effort.

P2: What if I teach you how?

P1: … yes.


P1: I feel like I don’t have enough time for basic things.

P2: Are there things you can stop doing to make time?

P1: Well I keep getting swept up in plans.

P2: Can you say no to some things some times? Like when you’re really crunched for time?

P1: … right, yes.

The unifying theme is that the person (P1) had a want or a need or a problem, and a friend (P2) nudged them towards fixing it. Sometimes that took the form of suggesting a solution, but other times it was just by asking for more information (e.g. ‘Do you know why?').

The important thing is not the solution, or the question, but rather the implicit suggestion that change is possible. That gets you thinking about your problem/want/need as something you can influence with your actions, and that’s the core of agency.

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