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by David N Johnson

October 5, 2021

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Why is it that we assume that differences are bad?

As a species, we tend to sort things by their differences and ignore the similarities. It’s when something goes against the expected that we take notice. It makes us uncomfortable.

Why would somebody think differently than me anyway? I’m a reasonably intelligent person and have thought this through. Something must be wrong with them!

Confirmation bias is our tendency to interprate new information as confirmation of what we already hold to be true. So anything OPPOSING our viewpoint can’t be right. Right?

As you can imagine, this can be dangerous.

Let’s try a little exercise. Choose one of the statements below that you most identify with when in a disagreement with somebody.

A) I’m never wrong about this. Or at least very rarely. Nobody has the insights that I do, I’ve really thought about it and can’t be swayed because my position is the superior one.

B) I want to understand your point of view, where you’re coming from, and how you arrived at your opinion. I’m open to being swayed if you’re right.

Reading both of those, most people would choose B. Odds are, you did the same. However, subconsciously, most pick A.

This isn’t something we consciously do, otherwise why did you pick B (I’m assuming that you did) just now?

Because, consciously you’re able to look past your subconscious biases and filters. Whenever we hear a viewpoint counter to our own thoughts it can’t be true. At least not right away. This is why it’s extremely hard to see things from somebody else viewpoint. Our subconscious brains won’t allow it!

I’d argue that when you start to feel uncomfortable, that’s the exact moment that you should lean in and really listen. To be a good listener you aren’t just waiting for your turn to speak, rather you’re reserving your opinion until you UNDERSTAND what the other person is saying.

Your first instinct shouldn’t be to think, “I’m right!” It should be, “how do I know I’m right?”

This is why it’s important to actively listen. Each of us not only has our own personal biases to content with but also other filters like how we were raised, our beliefs, trigger words, how things are at work, in our relationships, and others.

All of this makes it really tough to recieve new information and is a big part of the reasons why most disagreements start in the first place.

Learn to slow things down. Learn how to ask clarifying questions and understand that maybe the other person is having a hard time expressing themselves. This is more common than you may think, just as we have our own biases and filters as the receiver, so does the other person.

Language is nothing more than an interpretation of how we feel internally. It’s not always easy to put into words everything that we think and feel on the inside. The communicator doesn’t always give you everything you need to understand whatever it is that they are trying to say.

No matter how good of a communicator you think that you are, you’re not as good as you think. There is a lot internally to contend with, from both the giver AND the receiver.

Seek to understand. Reserve your reply until AFTER you fully grasp what the other person is trying to tell you.

There is nothing worse than disagreeing on a misunderstanding.

Do you agree?

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David N Johnson

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David N Johnson

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