Defeat Skepticism: Shake Personal Bias

Can we REALLY defeat skepticism?

As I shared in my last post, skepticism is a logical and rational challenge of ideas to get to the reality or truth about a specific issue. But the typical impression we have of skepticism pertains to a close-minded, doubtful, and hard-to-convince mentality. This often stems from a fear of failure, which can be overcome with a more positive outlook.

Another breeding ground for close-minded skepticism is an over emphasis on past negative experiences. Regrets from the past, whether self-caused or not, can be powerful deterrents in the mind, unduly shaping our beliefs. A leader with a negative bias over a certain topic will be unable to assess it with objective eyes. Can you recall a time when you simply declared, “I’m not going there again?” AND have you found yourself unable to clearly explain why?

These are the kinds of biases every person has in their lives, to some degree. We don’t know we have them. No one is exempt.

In his book, Everyday Bias, Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), author Howard J. Ross helps us understand the powerful influence past experiences have on our minds:

“Unconscious influences dominate our everyday life. What we react to, are influenced by, see or don’t see, are all determined by reactions that happen deep within our psyche. Reactions which are largely unknown to us.”

How can a leader counter this?  Here are three steps to expose bias from regret or past negative experiences:

Shake Personal Bias

  1. Accept the fact that subconscious influences often keep you from seeing things as they really are. If you have a bitter taste over a certain issue, a bias could be in play. In significant decisions, err on the side of being biased, and decide to let another view have a chance of being true. Force yourself. You will most likely need help from a trusted colleague or coach.
  2. For the specific issue at hand, determine if the circumstances are actually the same as those in the past. If not, allow this to paint a better picture. Then recall why the past outcome was negative, and what you learned since then so you can change your approach.
  3. Explore all reasons why your feelings could be off target, and concede that another perspective is more appropriate. Your skeptical position can be reversed.

What do you think? Are past negative experiences unduly contributing to your skepticism today? Are you able to recognize and shake personal bias? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.