Studies have shown the more you pay for a mattress the happier you will tell people you are with it; regardless of how comfortable it really is. You can even convince yourself that it is better than a less expensive mattress on which tests show you actually sleep better. Our brains do the same thing about people. If you believe someone is a good person and they do something bad it is a “momentary lapse in judgment”. If you believe someone is a bad person and they do the same bad thing it is “proof they are evil”. We are also twice as likely to look for and remember information that confirms what we already believe and ignore information that could change our mind. Why do our brains take the same information and translate it differently depending on what we believe? Why are we willing participants in our own duping?
The short answer is, our brains are busy and it’s easy to go with what you already believe. Our brains really like easy. The longer answer is founded in what psychologist call “Confirmation Bias” AKA your internal Yes-man. He is doing you, and all the people who interact with you, a grave injustice.
Let me give an example:
At a networking event you meet the person that would have been your best repeat client. But in the first 10 seconds of meeting there is a “negative”; let’s say he has bad breath. That shouldn’t affect your decision to do business with him but your Yes-man is going to take the bad first impression and run with it. As he talks you notice his shirt is wrinkled. Your Yes-man says, “Lacks attention to detail.” Then he pronounces a word incorrectly and your Yes-man says, “Hmm might not be very smart.” Later you go to his LinkedIn profile and see he only has 150 connections. Your Yes-man says, “Not savvy at business networking.” And so your Yes-man talks you out of following up with what would have been your breakout client.
We all make intuitive decisions all day every day. And there are a lot of them that don’t need to be over analyzed. But when you’re making an important business decision or a judgment about a human being, it’s a good idea to fire your Yes-man and let your logical brain honestly look at the facts.
How to fire your Yes-man
Write down why you are make the decision you chose – Your Yes-man lives on the right-side of your brain and doesn’t have direct access to language. Sometimes the process of forcing the idea through the logic center in your left-brain (where language lives) is enough to override the Yes-man effect.
What information was used to create the answers above? – One of the things we would have written down from the example above would have been “He isn’t detail oriented”. When we challenged that assumption we likely wouldn’t even remember the wrinkled shirt and our logical brain would (hopefully) notice the lack of data to back up our assumption.
How relevant is the existing data? – Maybe you do remember he had bad breath, a wrinkled shirt, the mispronounced word and his LinkedIn profile. Is that information valid to use when deciding to pursue him as a client?
What would it take to change your mind? – Here is your logical brain’s opportunity to gather more information. Don’t let your Yes-man say, “Nothing would change my mind.” We aren’t asking him.
Get a second opinion – Take the information you have and ask someone you trust to be logical and truthful to play devil’s advocate. Be careful about setting them up to give you the answer you want to hear. Like when a waitress asks, “How is everything…good?” when your mouth is full.
Listen to a detractor. No really listen – Actively and aggressively look for and seek to understand information that disagrees with your decision. It is going to be difficult because your Yes-man is going to be jumping up and down screaming that he’s right. But do it anyway. (If you’re really brave, try this step with something polarizing like politics, religion or your ex.)
Now that you know you have a Yes-man and he is you, you can actively do something to offset his power. Your stock portfolio, your friends and your business will love you for all the new smarts you will gain.
As always, I with you the MOST from your potential,
Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence in all aspects of life through active leadership, powerful teamwork, effective communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com.