“It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.” Jim Rohn.
Good or Bad.
We make decisions every day. In the Presidential election, we saw 75 million make one decision and 70 million make another. All states counted the votes. And yet many people decided they don’t believe the counts. What does this tell us about our individual decision making? Why would 75 million votes one way and 70 million votes another after we have watched the past four years of the presidency?
First off, the decision we each made was a decision about the President’s actions during his first term and the direction we wanted for the country. It was a decision that represented each person’s view of what was best for the country. It reflected each of our value systems and biases. We each weighed our beliefs, our values, our biases, and the lens through which we viewed the actions of the sitting President and determined how we would vote.
How can Americans see things so differently?
Some of us wonder how anyone could overlook the actions of the President over the past four years and vote for him. The others wonder why we can’t see the benefits we have received from his term as president. Well, the answer to both questions or observations comes down to our personal values, beliefs, and biases.
Each of us makes our decisions based on the complexities of what we believe, how each of us deals with our psychological biases and the values we have built our lives around.
Psychology Today defines biases as our tendency, inclination, or prejudice toward or against something or someone. We often base our biases on stereotypes, rather than actual knowledge of an individual or circumstance. Also, our biases can be positive or negative and become cognitive shortcuts that can cause prejudgments that lead to rash decisions or discriminatory practices.
I am going to identify three of the over 300 biases that we may have.
The first bias I want to highlight is Confirmation Bias. Confirmation bias says we prioritize and favor information that confirms our existing beliefs. If I believe I am a Republican, then anything that a Democrat says is likely wrong, even if it is obvious to an unbiased observer that it is true. You are blind or discount things that don’t support your point of view.
Next is stability bias. Stability bias means we will always prefer the status quo instead of something new. This explains why we are creatures of habit and hate change. I remember when I first joined the chamber of commerce and went to a weekly breakfast meeting. I was early and sat in an empty seat waiting for others to arrive. Someone came up, tapped me on the shoulder and asked me why I was sitting in their chair. They ingrained a somewhat extreme view of Habit. Their habit overruled the welcoming spirit that I expected.
The last one I am going to highlight today is the unconscious bias. This bias explains such things as, I don’t like green vegetables exist. I learned, at a young age, I didn’t like the taste or texture of green vegetables. I only eat certain things and when faced with something new, I won’t try it. As you see from the graphic below, we are one mass of biases. Another aspect of this that we learn at a young age is to be with people like us-the ingroup. Our unconscious bias towards anyone not like us is that they are different and we place a negative connotation on different.
How to overcome our biases.
How do we get past our biases? First, we recognize they exist. Then we analyze our response to a situation or additional information. Ask yourself, was my response one that I thought through and understand how I arrived at the response. Or was my response the result of one or more of my biases kicking in and overriding a thoughtful determination of my response. Our goal as enlightened individuals is to always be thoughtful in our responses rather than jumping to a conclusion based on our biases.
What are your values? Psychology Today defines values as chosen beliefs, firm not rigid convictions. So, our values are those things we have chosen that guide us. Implied in this is that if we have chosen them, we can change them. This is important because values are one of the other major factors that affect our decisions. For example, if your values are truth, honesty, treating all people equally, and putting the needs of others first, then that will help you decide. For me, because of my values, the decision of whom to vote for was easy. Others who have only some of my values and have others who would lead them to vote differently, especially if guided by their biases.
Only you know what you believe. What drives you? For me my beliefs include the concepts that our founding fathers envisioned- Equal treatment of all; treat everyone with the same fairness that I can expect; that we are a country that is stronger because of our diversity; and that we are stronger by treating people with dignity.
For me, I make my decisions through a lens shaped by my beliefs, my values, and my biases. And of late I have become a Rotarian which gives me 4 other facets to my lens: 1. Is it the truth; 2. Is it fair to all concerned; 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships; and 4. Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?
How do you make your decisions? Thoughtfully or because your family does it that way? However, you do it, it can be difficult. You can’t just listen only to people that believe like you, dialogue with those you don’t agree with. It will surprise you to find that you are more alike than different.
Deciding is about making your decisions. To do this, as a thoughtful, enlightened, person you must know yourself through introspection, and above all be your own best friend.
“I believe we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.”—Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.