I almost fell into the bias trap. As my confidence has grown, I’ve learned to critically challenge my own thinking. In this instance, it prevented me from allowing a personal bias from sending an erroneous message.
A friend, who views things much as I do, sent me an article that plays to our mutual beliefs on the topic. The article triggered an idea for a blog post.
Initially I referenced the article in the blog post because it aligned so well with my beliefs. I even went so far as scheduling the post.
Then my gut (actually, it’s my subconscious mind) reminded me to check the source referenced in the article. It wasn’t that I doubted the author of the article, but I felt compelled to check the accuracy of what I was writing.
While I found the article’s author had accurately stated what transpired in the segment of the interview he cited, I found that other segments of the interview contained information that he felt was missing in the segment he cited.
I quickly edited out any reference to the article and any conclusions related to the article. These changes didn’t alter the overall message of my blog post, but they did prevent me from using an erroneous example and, in doing so, perpetuating a bias I hold. It helped me maintain the integrity I strive to achieve in all my writings.
We are all biased. To state otherwise is either naive or disingenuous.
The question isn’t whether we’re biased, but whether we’re confident enough to acknowledge our bias. Because it’s in the acknowledgment that we open our minds to consider alternative viewpoints. It’s this openness that enables us to avoid the kind of trap into which I almost fell. A trap that can, and often does damage, our credibility.
To avoid bias traps, challenge information that supports your beliefs. Make sure the information you’re getting offers a balanced perspective. I owe this insight to my college rhetoric instructor. He had us write a 500-word paper on any controversial topic of our choice. The following week our assignment was to write the opposing side of the argument.
What an eye opener! Not only did his exercises open my eyes to the validity of the opposing side’s perspective, it shined a light on common ground that would enable all parties to reach an agreement. Employ the simple exercises my instructor gave me and there’s little likelihood that you’ll fall into a bias trap.
For our kids
When kids are adamant about a position they’re taking, ask them to come up with arguments that could support the other side. Their young minds will quickly see the benefits of exploring both sides and they’ll do it consistently as they see how this dual perspective makes their lives easier.
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please leave your comment below.
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