How to deal with Confirmation Bias & Mindsets?
Every once in a while I get into a discussion having to do with explaining how certain things are picked up on. This one has to do with “how to approach people in order to get through to them”, or better yet how to deal with “Confirmation Bias”. How is someone best approached in order to have him or her listen?
Before going on, some things should be explained when it comes to “Confirmation Bias”. People talk about Confirmation Bias when others have certain specific ideas and they are not open to changing these. On the surface they seem to be open and to be listening but when taking a closer look, they actually are not. It took me till very recently to understand this principle. It wasn’t until I was being told the following until I started to see what was actually being meant:
“It’s the whole reading comprehension thing again. You evidently read between the lines and see precisely what you want to see.”*
My first response was:
“There’s a very big difference between reading between the lines (noticing what’s not been said and getting into this) and only noticing what I want to see (this is called a blind spot, as a result of a mindset).”
“The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. You can set out to notice “what’s not being said” because it’s what you want to notice. Or, you can notice face-value language and see it how you want to see it.”
“Two words: Confirmation bias.”
While first thinking “Confirmation Bias” was nothing more than being aware (reminded) of what the “so-called” bias (for others “the true belief”) is, it turns out there’s a whole lot more to it. Looking it up on the net I found an article explaining that this is about looking for evidence as in confirming what was already thought of and overlooking all else, which could be contradictive to the already adopted beliefs (note what was being said before: [You] “see precisely what you want to see”). They added that in order to find out the “truth”, it’s important to have people involved who represent the other side.
This leads me straight to question number two. How to approach people who are (almost) certain to only see (and hear) what they want to comprehend (as in being blinded by their own mindsets)?
Does it require being polite or the exact opposite as in being blunt? Does someone need to get angry first and what would the result be? What I said when talking on about confirmation bias and how things were said to me was:
“It’s the way you can say things to me and the impact they have on me. And then there’s me thinking about the truth behind it, making me see things differently.”
The response was:
“Show me the polite way to let someone know that their personal beliefs about how the world operates could be mistaken, and I’ll show you a person who will let it in one ear and out the other.”
Personally I do no think this has anything to do with being polite. It has to do with getting through to someone, which requires being “straight-forward” about what it is you want to say to the other person, leaving no question marks whatsoever. The other aspect is being respectful.
The first aspect sounds easy enough until/unless someone is not willing to listen. This can be easily recognized. If someone chatters on or stops only briefly to go on straight away about another subject, this is very revealing. What’s important is to do what it takes to get someone’s attention. This can vary from touching someone on the knee, forcing to look at you to getting completely silent and see what happens next. Depending on the situation and the relationship the methods will vary.
When being on the net (only relying on text and no live images), things become a little harder. What if someone does listen to you, but does not respond back about it? Is it by repeating the same words/lines all over again that someone shows he or she is not listening? Can it be that part is understood and part is not? And if so, what to do? Repeat it all over again (or partly) just in other words? How can you check what is understood and what’s not?
Then there is the second aspect called respect. If someone gets angry, upset or emotional, does this show respect to the other one? And better yet (or even worse), what kind of reaction does it trigger? If lucky the other ones does not respond at all, or it only gets noticed and something is being said about it, reminding the other one of his or her responsibility. Worst case scenario the other starts to yell or scream even louder, a very normal reaction, leading to nowhere.
When we are talking mindsets, we are dealing with the subconscious part. This can be triggered by emotions and/or by going into extremes. Showing a mirror can work very well, but is not always the easiest thing to do. Then there is also the part of showing trust, confidence and/or patience towards the other person, which gives one the chance to let his one’s guard down and get closer to this (hidden) mindset. Safety is “key” when you want to access parts which are hidden in the subconscious part of the mind. Taking someone along on the path to the (sometimes painful) truth may still be hard, but when done so with enough respect and trust, it’s acceptable, however difficult it may seem.
Someone recently send me this message:
“It’s really nice to speak to you. Even if it often feels like you’re pulling me further down while I feel like I’m drowning in misery, with you questioning my thinking and intentions… you still manage to always pull me back up above the surface where I can breath. You’re amazing. I feel better now that I did this morning.”
She’s a wonderful person, willing to look at herself, showing guts by doing so. And sometimes I can be really “blunt” to her, to access those mindsets and to make things (patterns) visible to her. Doing so, I also remind her of the things she’s already done and the good aspects coming out of the whole process and with it, there’s trust.
Looking back on this story, I’d say we all have hidden mindsets, causing us to act conform “confirmation bias”. Not all of us are so lucky to have someone in our surroundings to point this out and while these persons might be rather annoying and sometimes even hurtful, they are the truly special people which deserve treasuring. How many people do you know who dare to tell you the truth, see the world differently, and thus making you able to grow? If you do, you might want to think about this story next time you would like to lash out at someone who’s giving it to you straight :-). I most certainly will and do, however hard sometimes!
* All quotes (in Italics and with exception of the last one) are made by someone I talk to daily on his blog, also known as TS. TS is constantly showing me new insights when it comes to my own mindsets and beliefs, never giving up, even when things seem pointless. Even when not knowing where this will lead me, when talking about my own “’experiences” and “beliefs”, it helps me to see things in better perspective, uncovering my own (limiting) mindsets. Being both a coach and counsellor, I’m more appreciative about this than anyone will, most likely, ever know.