Advice from 7 TED speakers on creating better connections. “Why don’t I feel closer to my parent/sibling/friend/co-worker?” It’s a question that many of us have pondered at some point, and it usually comes out of our desire to feel more connected to the real VIPs in our life: that is, the people we care about,…
Before we can use our critical thinking skills, it is important to remove barriers to thinking clearly. Our biases cloud our understanding, analyzing and decision-making more than we can imagine. In fact, Wikipedia lists more than 100 psychological beliefs and biases. It also lists 27 sociological biases or barriers in understanding and decision-making. In fact, it will not be unfair to say that bias is the opposite of common-sense clear thinking.
So, in the first step of getting information or data, we tend to select data or information, saying- “this is not significant”, “that’s biased”, “this will not work in our company”
That is why we remove biases before forming our questions or setting the decision making context. Lets look at some very common biases:
1. Confirmation Bias or Cognitive bias
Confirmation bias happens when we gloss over or even actively look for information that supports our existing beliefs, and reject information that go against what we believe. This may be a result of our subconscious thoughts, rather than intentional bias. That’s why these are called ‘blind spots’. It can lead to missed opportunities and poor decision making. This can lead you to make biased decisions, because we don’t factor in all of the relevant information.
I feel susciptable to Confirmation bias while making career-related decisions as well as networking decisions. How often we feel pressured to make a decision by persuasive or powerful colleagues or mentors or role models. I even feel rebellious and find information that don’t support advice given by colleagues whom I am not so comfortable with. Can you think of such instances in your experience?
According to Mindtools, a 2013 study found that confirmation bias can affect the way that people view statistics. Its authors report that people have a tendency to infer information from statistics that supports their existing beliefs, even when the data support an opposing view. That makes confirmation bias a potentially serious problem to overcome when you need to make a statistics-based decision.
To Avoid Confirmation Bias
We can look for ways to challenge what we think you see by taking on the role of ‘Devil’s Advocate’ ourselves. We can purposefully, seek out information from a variety of sources, and use techniques like, Six Thinking Hats to consider situations from multiple perspectives. We can also deliberately seek out people and information sources that challenge our opinions, or assign someone on our team to play ‘devil’s advocate’ for major decisions.
I have made it a regular practice to consult my Reality Check- a few people who think very differently from me- fortunately, at home itself. It is a good practice to identify a diverse groups or individuals, and name them as our reality check, regularly seeking out to their dissenting views. This will become comfortable when it becomes a habit.
2. Anchoring or “first impression” bias
That is a tendency to jump to conclusions – or to base your final judgment on information gained early on in the decision-making process. On any number of occasions, once we form an initial picture of a situation, it’s hard to see other possibilities. I have some regret stories myself; and have deliberately learned to go through a Ladder of Inference.
To Avoid First Impression Bias
I never lose sight of my decision-making history, and have a cryptic poster on my computer, of my lessons learnt when I have rushed to judgment in the past. Mindtools’ Ladder of Inference is a model I use to force the stages of thinking that I need to go through to make good decisions. This takes some practice, and later becomes a habit. I may take a little more time, but it ensures a thorough, well-considered decision. No regrets later. if I feel pressure to make a quick decision. (If someone is pressing aggressively for a decision, I tell myself that probably, what they’re pushing me for is, against my best interests.)
3. Overconfidence Bias: Another similar barrier to good understanding is Overconfidence Bias. Researchers found that entrepreneurs are more likely to display the overconfidence bias than the general population. They can fail to spot the limits to their knowledge, so they perceive less risk. Some succeed in their ventures, but many do not.
To Avoid Overconfidence Bias
We Write down answers to the following questions before making a Pros and Cons Table:
⦁ What sources of information do I tend to rely on when I made the following Table? Are these fact-based, or on hunches?
⦁ Who else is involved in gathering information?
⦁ Has information been gathered systematically?
Bottom-line: Write down in charts, ladders, checklists or a notebook, the facts and feelings which you took into account while understanding or making a major decision. Never repeat some of these biases and faulty thinking.
More on Improving Critical Thinking in the next few posts…
More on body language:
Several body parts can be seen as barriers or discouragers of comunication. Time and again, we are told that crossing our hands over our chest says clearly- we are not interested in listening or we are not interested in engaging with you.
The thumb rule is to take away anything that blocks your view or looks like a barrier between us and the rest of the team. Even during a coffee break, one can be aware that we may create a barrier by holding our cup or glass in such a way that seems deliberately, to block our body or create a distance from others.
A senior executive is quoted a saying that he could evaluate his team’s comfort by how high they held their coffee cups. He observed that the more insecure a team-member or a new-comer felt, the higher they held their coffee.
People with their hands held at waist level were supposed to be more comfortable than those with hands chest high. I take most of these myths with a pinch of salt. What do you think? Any experiences to share?
Touch is a more powerful tool.
A study on handshakes by the Income Center for Trade Shows showed that people are two times more likely to remember us, if we shake hands with them. They also found that people react to those with whom they shake hands by being more open and friendly. They explain it as follows: Touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue. Touching someone on the arm, hand, or shoulder for as little as 1/40 of a second creates a human bond.
Smile is another powerful body tool to build rapport and enable friendly co-operative behavior When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way.
Mirroring or taking similar expressions or postures as the other person builds rapport and liking. When we mirror other people with intent, it can be an important part of building rapport and nurturing feelings of mutuality. Mirroring starts by observing a person’s facial and body gestures and then subtly letting your body take on similar expressions and postures. Doing so will make the other person feel understood and accepted.
Have you noticed, when somebody lowers his voice, speaking with clear, even pitch, one pays attention. To sound authoritative, keep your voice down. This tip comes from a Speech Therapist. He advised that before a speech or an important call, he lets his voice relax into its optimal pitch by keeping his lips together and making the sounds “um hum, um hum, um hum.”
We females, have to watch out for our voice not to rise at the ends of sentences- this may indicate a question or seeking approval. He says, “when stating your opinion, use the authoritative arc, in which your voice starts on one note, rises in pitch through the sentence and drops back down at the end.” Excellent advice, I think. More on voice language for collaborative work in the forthcoming posts.
Don’t miss the following the History Channel documentary on body language:
TIP: Become a child and look at the situation simply.
TRY TO- Rephrase: because there’s ALWAYS A BETTER WAY OF SAYING SOMETHING.
-TRY TO WRITE – Direct ways to communicate are better.
-People appreciate hearing the truth. Don’t you?
-Recognize that there is no need to embellish or distort.
-Resolve to be comfortable talking about difficult topics.
-less is more: use the simplest descriptions. More on this topic coming up…
As Tony Robbins says: RAPPORT IS POWER
In any work or relationship or home situation, the thumb rule is to PUT PEOPLE FIRST. ALWAYS RESPECT the people on the team. Watch the videos in the right column. They express my opinions better visually. Do let me know whether you agree or not.
Next we talk about listening effectively.
We cannot work together, if we do not listen to each other. That is not to say that we have to appease our obstinate child; or whining subordinate; or unreasonable customer. Actively listen; so that the other person responds and feels comfortable for the conversation. There is no feeling that it is a one-sided situations. If the other person is on the defensive….then no real communication can take place. There would be no compliance, there would be no improvement, there would be no teamwork. Period.
There has to be a perception of a level playing field. For that:
This is important – Tell The Other Person That You Really Heard
-Acknowledge what others are saying. Mirror or Rephrase what the other person said.
–Say that I see your point. Validate others’ positions before promoting your own.
-Concentrate on listening without jumping to your views. If it is totally unreasonable, don’t interrupt; write down the exact words which the other person is saying.
–YOU CAN VALIDATE THE POSITION of others without agreeing with them.
-Separate high standards of conversation from disapproval and judgment. Don’t yet place yourself in a position of judgement.
YOU STILL ARE NOT AGREEING, just listening; clearing the barriers of communication.
Try this …and let me know what you feel
As a trainer, self-awareness about ourselves; and each person in the audience can be the ideal. I cannot overemphasize the importance of building a rapport in the classroom ; or in any interpersonal context. For those who want to improve their communications, lets get down to the basics and check again to see that we don’t miss the following.
In my Communications trainings, I also use this quiz to understand current communication styles and concerns: (a few questions in each post; with Best Answers and Tips in the next post):
A Few TIPS:
There are plenty of Models for Interpersonal Communication, which have value. I personally like to use the above model (refined through experience), where one decides how to communicate with colleagues, friends, family, children; based on the desired outcome.
If we want to motivate a child or team-member, there are several steps we can use before we deliver the message itself. There are other persuasive elements we can use to motivate a recent acquaintance to say, part with the phone number of his colleague. The idea is not to manipulate, but to truly engage him and his colleague in a win-win opportunity. Isn’t that how collaborative projects begin?
On the other hand, if we want to clarify study or work instructions, a feedback and clarification loop will be a better communication strategy. Listening skills have to improve too. Have you been in a situation where things got messed up because you thought the instruction was pretty simple; but not to the other person?
I surely have had several occasions like that. So I have learnt this communication model the hard way!
Another way to look at developing yourself, and growing is Multiple Intelligences. Each one of us has multiple strengths:
Learning Points from Cody Pomeranz’s TEDx Talk on “How Chess Can Revolutionise Learning” — courtesy Never Stop Learning! blog
It doesn’t matter what your background is, how old you are, or your gender, or anything. At the chessboard, it’s just you versus your opponent. Chess has many benefits and teaches many things including: 1. Logic and reasoning 2. Understanding consequences 3. Strategy and tactics 4. Preparation 5. Concentration 6. Patience 7. Creativity 8. Not […]
Photo by Negative Space / Public Domain In life, there are many different skills that we need in order to live at our best. These can be developed organically through experience, but sometimes we need a little extra help. Activities like chatting to friends and acquaintances, life coaching or even taking personal development courses can […]
My inspiration in such settings is the Dalai Lama, or people who maintain their Zen-like composure, even under a barrage of thinly veiled insults. When asked what their secret was, they say, “I just don’t let these people bother me. Usually, when people feel the need to find fault in others or the way they live their life, it’s because it makes them feel better about their own discontent.” Queen of Queendom.com did a survey; and analyzing data from 4,092 people who took the Emotional Intelligence Test, she compared two distinct groups: Those who are happy with the relationships in their lives and those who are not. Five key traits stood out for her:
(Note: Scores range on a scale from 0 to 100)
- Score for people who are content with their relationships: 72
- Score for people who are discontent: 47
Content people go into every situation with a hopeful and optimistic outlook. Even when times are challenging, they strive to look for the silver lining, and see every unpleasant encounter/ challenge/ hardship as an opportunity to learn and grow. They try to find the best in others, even if they don’t entirely see eye-to-eye with a person.
How it can help during the holidays: you too can see such encounters as an opportunity to make changes for the better, mend bridges, and start again.
- Score for people who are content with their relationships: 72
- Score for people who are discontent: 50
Content people recognize their own value, and go into relationships believing that they deserve just as much love and respect as the other person. High self-esteem acts like a protective barrier, where no insult, disparaging remark or failure can penetrate and damage the bearer’s sense of self-worth. People with high self-esteem accept themselves, quirks and all, because they know they are special. People with low self-esteem, on the other hand, are more likely to put down others in order to boost their own fragile sense of self.
How it can help during the holidays: Whether it’s disparaging looks or talk about your looks, or lifestyle or neglected home, you need not allow other people’s opinion shape your own. thats their opinion (even unsolicited opinion). Its worthwhile to look at them as a medium to find the message: Behind every insult is the desire to offer advice, even if poorly worded.
- Score for people who are content with their relationships: 77
- Score for people who are discontent: 58
Content people have developed a strength of character that allows them to see and approach hardship in a unique way. They interpret obstacles, failures, and difficulties as a test of skill rather than as an impassable roadblock. Even if faced with a circumstance that they will have to deal with for the rest of their life (e.g. illness, loss), they use adversity to make them stronger. This inner strength allows them to empathize with the hardships of others, and potentially guide those who are also struggling.
How it can help during the holidays: As you ponder the year that has passed, don’t view your failures as endings, but rather, as an opportunity to do things better in the time to come. The most impactful lessons are those that are learned the hard way.
- Score for people who are content with their relationships: 70
- Score for people who are discontent: 53
Content people make it a point to tune into their emotions. Rather than just scratching the surface, they strive to understand why a situation or person causes them to react in a certain way. They understand that feelings are more than just a response: They offer a message that allows them to better understand their wants and desires, and the motive behind their actions.
How it can help during the holidays: Your feelings are your responsibility and are under your control. A person cannot make you angry…you allow yourself to react this way. If someone says something to upset you, take a step back and try to gain perspective of the situation. Why have this person’s words affected you so much? Perhaps they bother you because they are touching on a truth you are not ready to admit to yourself, or they remind you of a difficult time. Understanding where your reaction comes from is the first step toward better self-awareness.
- Score for people who are content with their relationships: 74
- Score for people who are discontent: 64
Content people do not see the world in black and white. There is room for diverse opinions and different interpretations of facts or truths. While they may not agree with other people’s perspectives, content people recognize that everyone has a right to their opinion. They are open to different ideas and views, if only to gain a broader understanding of an issue.
How it can help during the holidays: Before judging a person’s opinion or choice as right or wrong, take a step back to consider the situation from their perspective. Try to understand what would motivate a person to choose a certain path. What a person values, desires, and fears can play a role in the decisions they make and actions they take.
So while the holidays are generally a joyful time, they can also turn into a free-for-all where people hash out their differences or say things they wouldn’t normally say any other time of the year – which can put a real damper on holiday dinners. However, rather than worrying about other people’s conduct, focus on monitoring your own. As a wise friend once put it, what’s important is to focus on yourself:
It is a matter of recognizing that, regardless of what the other individuals’ perceptions are, it does not discount you or invalidate you, and therefore, it is not necessary to be threatened by the other individuals’ perceptions. And it is also not necessary to change the other individuals’ perceptions.
When you can move in a direction of genuinely being comfortable and satisfied and acknowledging of yourself, you can also begin to move in the direction of acknowledging and accepting differences in other individuals and not being threatened by that, and recognizing that their perception is equally as valid as yours.
Here are some tips:
Thats the way to go forward. Which of these tasks will take you to your goals? Which of these actions will take you a few steps closer towards the person you dream to be?
I will end with what Einstein said:
Over to you…do let me know at email@example.com
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