How We Limit the Calibre of Our Thinking

When I teach persuasion or negotiation, the first day of class I write a word on the board.  That word is “assume.”  It is the enemy of effective persuasion and negotiation, and yet most of us rely on assumptions much of each day.  Some are necessities.  We need to assume that the sun will rise and set, other drivers will stay largely in their lanes and when they signal left will not go right.  We assume certain rules will be followed lowering the risk for all.

Then there are assumptions about people.  Many of these are based on very sparse evidence, inferences, generalizations and often stereotypes.  I wrote yesterday about the hazards of stereotypes.  Like all patterns, they can become modes of thought that cease to be challenged.  When that happens, our choices are influenced by very weak observations.

Not only are stereotypes potentially harmful as we see throughout the world now, they limit the complexity of our thinking.  They’re like crutches that we’ve continued to use long after we could have been moving fine without them.  They cause us to limp when we could run.  Stereotypes hold us back.  They demean others and reduce us to small thinking.

There are ways to break out of reliance on stereotypes.  These ways are much like those we’ve discussed regarding “choice points” and unwanted repetitive episodes (see categories of blogs in right column).  Breaking free of stereotypes, at least not allowing them to function as fact when so often they are largely fiction, raises the calibre of our thinking.

See Big Think blog here http://bit.ly/1tG2RMa

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