Being honest about bias

Oh, bias. Such a maligned issue, yet so relevant, all of the time.

Ok, so let’s see here… journalists aren’t allowed to be biased, in fact saying someone is biased is one of the ways many people go about indicting.

“I think you’re only telling one side of the story, and I probably totally disagree with you.”

It’s odd that being unbiased is the goal, either ideologically or rhetorically, especially since we’d all admit it’s inescapable.

If we acknowledge that we all have our own biases regardless of how enlightened we might happen to be, then lets move the marker.

We’re biased.

Now that we can admit it, all we have to do is be honest that we have it. Incorporating that knowledge into our communication is the next, and most important step.

Easier to say than do, but oh so worth it.

Charlottesville

What happened in Charlottesville over the weekend proves that the notion of existing in a post-racial America is a complete fantasy. The “I don’t see skin color” version of public policy mixed with a talking point that helps back away from the cultural and social work we really need to do.

I’ve been sick to my stomach watching footage of the riots and that car mowing down our fellow people.

It’s made me so angry that I feel a rush of primal, testosterone-laced adrenaline that reverts to physicality, and wants to pummel those whose ideas I find disgusting and fucked up.

My mind quickly comes back to violence and it’s true nature. It’s never a solution. It never ends anything. It merely accelerates the eye for an eye approach. It’s made me think just how radical nonviolence really is. It’s sooooo hard to do. To remain truly nonviolent in communication and action is no easy feat, especially when directed at our perceived enemies.

The thing is, nonviolence destabilizes the entire back and forth that violence perpetuates. It knocks it off its axis. Calling for LOVE for those who desire the annihilation of anyone that doesn’t look like them is the hardest test.

Can we truly love our racist brothers and sisters out of their fundamentalist lens? Do we have the stomach for it?

I don’t know if we can and I don’t know if we do.

I also don’t know if violent retaliation does anything more than temporarily suppress those notions, as opposed to changing them.

I just don’t know.

Squeaky wheels & context

The way we approach any situation always depends on context. Or at least it should.

Applying one rule to getting what we want (usually, respect) runs the risk of missing out on obvious clues that’ll help us achieve that goal. Squeaky wheels only get grease when the request is reasonable, justified, and approached in a way where everyone’s dignity remains in tact.

Otherwise, squeaky wheels run off the rails without context, interactions suffer, and goals go by the wayside.

Whether it’s a client, managing a team we work on, or someone providing us with a service, we’re better off communicating fairly & giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Putting our foot down doesn’t mean raising our volume.

How might we?

The other day I read a really great article (long after it’s 2012 publication date) that talked about a phrase companies like Google and IDEO employ to get brains thinking creatively and collaboratively.

How?

As in, we need a new solution and we are open to it.

might …

We are open to big ideas, off the wall ideas. We’re removing the ‘dumb idea’ option from the table. Let’s think big.

we…

Together. We’re building this together, inherently.

To this point, how might we¬†foster spaces, dialogues, and communities that truly embrace the ‘how might we’ prompt?

… By asking it of ourselves every time something doesn’t work.

Emotional symptoms

The dark side of individuality is the practice of acting as though our emotions are the only, or most relevant reality. If how we feel trumps everything else, we risk habitually convincing ourselves of a hugely selfish way of interacting with the world.

Our emotions are symptoms. They’re not “how things are.” And really, how could they be? Any one person’s emotions are the product of one intersection point with reality. It’s hardly consensus.

That said, what should our emotional symptoms tell us? What process should ensue as the result of noticing our emotions and unpacking their origins?

Perhaps the way we feel really isn’t that important.

Perhaps it has more to do with how our feelings affect the way we live. After all, two conclusions can certainly lead to two totally different actions.

If productive mental states open the door for productive realities, we could be well served by parsing emotional symptoms from the realities we ascribe to them.

Finding proof

We’re often looking to prove a hypothesis, or more aptly, a deeply held belief, as opposed to just letting the data tell us what’s going on.

That’s because we’re all biased in one way or another, and that’s not a bad thing, but it should color how we think about expanding our worldview.

What’s more, there’s no political leaning when it comes to people undercutting answers before they ever hear them. That happens on the left as much as the right.

We can find proof for anything, but is that really the point?

Only if planting your feet in wet concrete sounds promising.

 

Springboards for more springboards

“This just in…” is a phrase we hear every day. It both relates to the insanity of our 24 hour news cycle, and the rapidly increasing pace at which the universe expands and reveals itself.

As we think we have the full picture, there’s more to consider.

In that light, conclusions are really just springboards for more springboards.

And that’s precisely the suspicion held by those of us who’d rather not ask the next question. We’re timid in the face of uncertainty. We fear the possibility of receiving more than we bargained for.

But if we understand that we’ll never have the whole picture, we automatically make our work more focused and our lives more practical. We can look at everything as a test in which we’re open to the results, as opposed to hellbent on proving something.

Being willing to ask a question entails being prepared for the answer, but if springboards lead to more springboards, we risk a lot less.

And we stay on our feet.

(Dis)armed with stories

We’re all armed with stories… but maybe our stories should really disarm us…

We possess tales of caution, irreverence, disappointment, and victory. It’s that breadth that can make gaps hard to bridge.

Being honest with ourselves about our stories and the perceptions we bring to certain ideas, places, and types, can help decipher why we each play the role we tend to play.

If we’re armed with stories, the connotation is one of battle.

But our stories should do the opposite for us. They should give us a better understanding of our place in the world, not a default reaction to provide.

Our stories don’t yield the universal truths we so often like to ascribe to them, but they do tell us something about ourselves.