Valerie Arnold, a keynoter at a recent ebbf international event offers us ideas on how to outsmart personal biases to achieve better consultative processes. Considering how many times we are not even aware of those biases, it is more useful to bring them to our attention and explore how we might overcome them.
“If consultation entails considering all points of view without attachment to personal opinion, then it is essential to become aware of the cognitive biases that prevent us from being open and fully detached from personal biases We all suffer from biases and these prevent an authentic dialogue during a consultation.
But outsmarting our own biases is tough as we are often unaware they exist. Only by challenging our deeply help assumptions, we will allow enquiry to happen.
Egocentrism is a big factor in distorting reality during a consultation and inserting personal biases but even without the ego
entering the room, we often have past experiences inform our thinking in the present. Imagine how a person in the group frequently brings up a way of thinking that is opposed to ours, as soon as that person starts to talk and present their opinion, our brain will have dismissed anything they say just after hearing their first few words, just based on past experience.
We need to be aware of our cognitive dissonance; every human being has a need to possess an accurate view of things, aka to be right! Human beings need to feel consistent (aligned thoughts, feelings and behaviours). We resolve the inconsistency either by changing our behaviour or, more often, by distorting reality and changing what we tell ourselves about the situation. This affects both our thoughts and our beliefs.
Another bias-creating element that enters meetings is when we have invested a great deal of resources in going in a certain direction, and opinions that dissuade the group from going ahead in that direction receive a lower level of attention.
So how we become more aware of the personal biases that prevent us from effective consultation?
Raising our self-awareness, through research, honest self-reflection and/or mentoring is a good path. Analysing more carefully how and why we react in a certain way when a specific person expresses an opinion, what is it that creates a positive or a negative reaction to their opinions?
More practical ideas to remove biases in groups is to change the location of the meeting, perhaps to a more informal setting: or adding off-topic articles and quotes, or even being brave and including people you know have contrasting views to break a pattern of existing biases.
Finally the key motivation of detaching from our personal opinion is to think of the final goal, of the better future that this consultation aims to bring about.
you will also be hearing the views of Valerie Arnold, keynoter at a recent ebbf international event, on the personal biases that negatively affect the quality of a consultative process and which we are also all too often unaware of.