Inspiring Goodies: ways we delude ourselves, trust and accountability

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Last year Inspiring Goodies was a section in my monthly newsletter, Perspective, but for 2021 we are bringing them to our blog to share a little wider.

Each month, there will be three things that have inspired our thinking over the last month for you to have a look at, listen to or read:

1. Ways you are deluding yourself

I’m currently reading You are Not So Smart: Why your memory is mostly fiction, why you have too many friends on Facebook and 46 other ways you’re deluding yourself – its investigates how our minds work and how we cope with the world around us. So far, my favourite one is the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, which looks at how we construct a story around the things we see:

The misconception: you take randomness into account when determining cause and effect.

The truth: you tend to ignore random chance when the results seem meaningful or when you want a random event to have a meaningful cause.

The name of the fallacy comes from an image of a cowboy shooting randomly at a barn wall. If you then draw a bullseye on that wall where there is a cluster of holes, it looks like the cowboy is a great shot. But you have created a story that isn’t real. We do this all the time – the story of Titan that was published before the Titanic was built draws incredible parallels to the tragedy – but only if you leave out crucial aspects of it. We are very good at creating “artificial order over random chance”.

A few weeks ago we watched the film A Time to Kill from 1996. I hadn’t seen it before and if you aren’t familiar with it, it is really worth a watch.

The final speech in the courtroom addresses the issue of trust and how we perceive people – something I’m continuing to look at with a link to fear and professionalism.

This is an extract from the script:

“In all this legal manoeuvring…something got lost. That something is the truth.

It is incumbent upon us lawyers…not to just talk about the truth…but to actually seek it…to find it, to live it. My teacher taught me that.

Let’s take Dr. Bass, for example. I would never knowingly put a convicted felon on the stand.

I hope you believe that.

But what is the truth? That he’s a disgraced liar?

What if I told you the woman he was accused of raping was 16 he was 23 that she became his wife…bore his child…and is still married to him?

Does that make his testimony more or less true?”

The link between the person and the message is something that is hard for us to distinguish. We can be quick to tarnish everything one person has said if one thing they did suggests their character is not what we thought. This also highlights the importance of context – in a world of short messages on social media, context is often left behind, letting assumptions fill the gaps.

3. The importance of accountability

The importance of accountability is something I talk about a lot. Especially when it comes to productivity, leadership skills and resilience. A recent podcast episode from Dr Brené Brown, Unlocking Us: Words, Actions, Dehumanisation and Accountability , recorded shortly after the Capitol riots reinforced why it’s accountability we need to focus on when it comes to change.

She talks about how “shame undermines accountability and shame corrodes empathy.” As she explores dehumanisation she references the work of Michelle Maiese, professor of philosophy at Emmanuel College who defines dehumanisation as “the psychological process of demonising the enemy making them less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatment.”

All of this has got me thinking even more about psychological safety in the workplace and how we can ensure we work in diverse and inclusive spaces. Importantly, I think this year is going to be one that focuses more on action, the human experience at work and trust. We hope you find these inspiring goodies thought-provoking and relevant.

If you would like to chat further about my thinking or how it can be applied to help you and your team drop me an email  info@redefiningcomms.com.

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