While watching both parties’ national conventions I was struck by how blinding beliefs can be. I heard speakers from both parties expound half truths and, in some instances, flat out lies.
In the Republican convention, with its live audiences, we saw applause for statements that are patently false. I have no doubt that it would have been equally true if live audiences attended the Democratic convention. This raises the question “Why are we so willing to believe what we wish instead of what exists?”
Bias is a natural element of our humanity. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t biased…and you’d have no problem seeing that I’m biased. The problem isn’t that we’re naturally biased, it’s our unwillingness to acknowledge and challenge our bias.
To have a position on any topic is a good thing, as long as we are:
- Open to alternative perspectives.
- Open to new information.
- Objectively evaluating the results we see against what we desire.
- Willing to change our position in light of new information, alternative perspectives and results produced.
It’s when we become rigid in our thinking, when we are willing to ignore results in favor of what we wish to be true, that our bias becomes blinding belief…when things get dangerous.
There is danger associated with blind belief. If, when I walk our dogs, I’d like to believe that all dogs are as friendly to other dogs as ours are, I’d put both myself and our dogs at risk. I won’t be paying attention to the demeanor of the dogs we pass. Yet we all know that some dogs are more territorial than others, and consequently, more aggressive than others.
To ignore these facts is folly. It’s bad enough that I put myself at risk with this blinding belief, but to put my dogs at risk is irresponsible. Unfortunately, what we’re witnessing today is an increased tendency among significant segments of our society to embrace blinding beliefs…a willingness to believe what we wish rather than what exists.
In every era there are those who embrace blinding beliefs, but as that number grows so do the risks to us all. The more rigid we become in our thinking the greater the us vs. them mentality that exists. With that mentality our energies are focused on defending our position instead of seeking areas of agreement on which we can lay a mutually-beneficial path forward.
So how do we go about removing the blinders so that we can open our eyes to what exists rather than what we wish?
- Acknowledge that we are all biased.
- Become more clear about what it is that you really want instead of reacting emotionally to what you’re hearing.
- Compare current results with what you want.
- Ask yourself “What am I doing that expands the gap between what I wish and the results I’m getting?”
- Make a conscious decision to take the action necessary to eliminate the gap.
Yes, this takes conscious effort. But it eliminates virtually all of the fear, anxiety and frustration you’re experiencing due to the gap between desire and results.
As you hear something that affirms your beliefs, ask yourself “Am I embracing this message because it’s what I want to be true? Or am I embracing it because it’s the result I’m seeing?”
When what you hear challenges your beliefs ask “Am I dismissing this message because I don’t like it? Or because it’s not what results show?”
These simple questions will help you gain the objectivity you need to avoid the dangers of blinding beliefs.
For our kids
As your kids embrace or dismiss ideas, seemingly without having given any real thought to the position they’re taking, ask them the questions suggested above. It’ll move them away from an emotional reaction to a more objective, conscious consideration of the topic.
And by all means, live the message. As we’ve often discussed, kids learn more from what we do than what we say…especially when the two are congruent. Lack of congruency creates confusion. Our kids are no different than we are, when language and action are disparate we trust the actions. By living the message, you make it easy for your kids to avoid developing blinding beliefs.
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please leave a comment.
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Fantastic piece on blinding beliefs and understanding bias. Dale, thank you as always for your wisdom!
Thanks for your encouraging words, Dan, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m honored to be your student as well. I’ve learned a great deal from you over the years.