The A&B of Judgment
The A & B of Judgment
Virtually every mistake we make is down to misjudged Assumptions and inherent Biases. They are the A & B of Judgment. When we conquer them we move our judgment several steps up the ladder of good thinking. Before we do that we have to see where our bad Assumptions come from. We must recognise the Biases we have built into our system.
A highly-qualified Filipina lawyer was hired on three separate occasions by law firms with the promise that in six months time she would become a Partner. She left each firm after three or four weeks. Why? In each partnership she was treated as the girl who made the tea and knew where the chocolate biscuits where kept. The consequence of this mistreatment was that major clients simply didn’t believe she was a highly qualified lawyer. Only when she learnt ‘assertion’ did she remain in a partnership. Now she runs her own law firm in Manila, Singapore and London.
Lesson: The first five hundred minutes in a new job are vital to its success. (Note1)
The Partners in her first three firms had a bias that said a Filipina lady is a tea maker not a lawyer. Had they examined their prejudice they might have retained her longer and perhaps, one day, made her Senior Partner. Our biases are more influential than we think. We regard ourselves as not biased – after all we have friends with other ethnic backgrounds, of different educational levels to ourselves and obviously from other ‘classes’. Alas, that very statement is a clear indication of bias. Worse, when we say we ‘tolerate’ people of differing preferences to ourselves – for example, sexual preferences – we are actually exposing our judgmental bias for all to see.
If you want to mitigate your biases make a list of the ones you know, stick it on your desk or phuter* and refer to it frequently. When you catch yourself answering a request very quickly – or very slowly – add to the list. When an invitation tempts you – or repels you – add to the list. Your bias list will grow quite rapidly. If it doesn’t you are missing something. You won’t get rid of your biases. Indeed you may well add to them as you get older. Being aware of them is a good start.
Biases are fairly easy to spot. Assumptions are more tricky. They sneak away into corners of your mind, establish themselves comfortably and settle down for the duration. I assume you know what I mean. There I go with my first assumption of this page! Or is it? Absolutely not, of course. I have already assumed that the title will make you want to read further. Just by writing the piece I assume you are interested in biases and assumptions. I’m making all sorts of assumptions about what you think is good and bad. I’ve assumed you know what a ‘phuter’ is – but I have added a clue.
When you ask ‘You know what I mean?’ you assume that your listener already does. How would they know if they didn’t? That is why it is such a daft question. More seriously, when you are preparing to sell something, including an idea, examine carefully what your audience is likely to be concerned with, may be predisposed to believe and probably already has a view – perhaps even a strong view – about. Audiences’ assumptions are as tricky as your own.
A recent performance of three look-alike singing stars of the 1960s visited Singapore. Their intimate chat among themselves between songs, intended to make the audience fall about with laughter, was all about the ‘amusing’ effects of alcohol. But the audience was largely Asian. The funny witticisms fell totally flat. Asians do not find drunkenness funny. Wrong assumption.
Question every assumption. It’s the only way to deal with them. And “if in doubt, spell it out” is the solution that ensures your communication will work. You don’t speak to a Russian educated child in English. If you did you would be assuming that s/he spoke English. Actually we all have an amusing and traditional way of overcoming foreign languages. We shout. That’s a very bad assumption, too. Why should someone who doesn’t understand the language you are speaking comprehend it better if you shout it?
Try following these stages of communication. Create the environment,
 Paint the scene,
 Send the message free of bias and unreasonable assumption,
 Ask a question the answer to which will tell you if they have understood you,
 Thank them,
Those are six stages of communicating.
Try them on your spouse. If they work there, they’ll work everywhere.
*phuter = phone/computer
Note 1: You can learn the secret of The First Five Hundred Minutes from firstname.lastname@example.org. Just ask us.