Are You Open to New Thoughts?

Have you ever encountered a fact that aligns perfectly with something you strongly believe?  I have.  And when I do, I usually am left thinking how great the author of the particular thought is.  It’s a different story when we hear a fact that is completely contrary to, or pokes holes in, a strongly held belief or opinion we possess.  We are likely to reject the information as a weak argument or as being outright false.  Why is that?  Is it just human nature, or is there more to it than that?  The answer is… “Yes”.

It’s called “Confirmation Bias”, and we all suffer from it. Confirmation Bias means that we tend to believe facts and ideas that support our opinions, and discount or completely disregard any facts that do not.  It makes sense when you think about it.  When we hold a strong belief or opinion about something, we’re not going to be super-eager to accept someone else’s idea that is contrary to our own.  Instead, we look for things that support what we believe, because we don’t want to be considered wrong in a belief we hold.

The concern with Confirmation Bias is that if we’re not aware of it, our thinking can become narrow, thus limiting our potential for growth and understanding of new thoughts and ideas.  If we are totally resistant to hearing any new thought that is contrary to our own, our thinking becomes stagnant and we severely limit our existence to the small world of our never-expanding beliefs and opinions.

How can we cause something to happen in our lives so that Confirmation Bias does not restrict us to the pre-determined parameters of our current beliefs and opinions?   Here are some ideas:

  1. Be aware of the existence of this bias as you go through you daily life and begin to be mindful of when you may be reacting to it.
  2. Learn to become open to hearing and considering the “other side” of an argument.  This doesn’t mean that you have to jettison your current beliefs in favor of what the other person is saying.  But at least be open to hearing contradictory facts and beliefs and in order to make informed decisions about what you believe and why you believe it.  Who knows?  You may even be exposed to a new idea that supports further supports your current belief.
  3. Be curious and growth minded.  Become interested in the beliefs of others any specifically why they hold those beliefs.  You may not agree with their belief, or even the reason that they hold it.  However, you will come away with a greater understanding of the person and what motivates their currently held opinions.  This is a key step to productive and meaningful communication.  Not to mention, it’s just fun to do!

Start today to be aware of Confirmation Bias, and how it shapes our beliefs and the beliefs of those we interact with.  By doing so, you’ll be increasing your ability understand and relate to those around you on a deeper level.

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