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Beware of Your Biases

When was the last time you experienced the Dunning-Kruger effect? For me, it was one month ago when I unreservedly expressed an opinion to someone and quickly realized that it was based on my own biases rather than any expertise. Worse yet, I experienced ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome, given that I had just expressed my opinion to someone more knowledgeable on the topic than I was. After some sheepish backpedaling, I followed up with some questions in an effort to decrease my ignorance.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

We don’t know what we don’t know, but we can try to be aware of when we’re responding based on our biases rather than our expertise. When our reaction is more of reflex than a carefully considered response, we might be motivated by our feelings or assumptions. These feelings may have more to do with our past experiences than the situation in front of us.

Silence is Golden, Questions are Platinum

Are you afraid of appearing ignorant? While Maurice Switzer may have said “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it”, it might be even better to ask questions to increase your knowledge. Rather than immediately expressing your opinion, try pausing and asking the other person for their opinion first. Chances are that you’ll be rewarded with learning something new.

When Your Mind is Open, There’s Room for Learning

Your biases might make you think that there’s nothing further to learn or no need to ask questions. In his “Strong Opinions, Weakly Held” article, Robert I. Sutton wrote that humility can help us put our biases aside. This opens us up to learning more, which can help us both in communicating with others and with ourselves.

So what does all of this have to do with facing your fears? Your biases might make you think that your dreams are too much work, not that important or unlikely to succeed. These beliefs discourage you from facing your fears. Beware of your biases. Your growth and happiness is at stake.

What biases did you notice for yourself when you read this article?

beware of your biases

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