Why does one person say it’s good and another says it’s not? Why do you think the idea has legs and another says it is doomed? Why do you see red when another lets it go?
We all have different ways of seeing things but do you know why this is so? In 1972 Dr Aaron Beck, an American psychiatrist, was also curious about this. It led him to coin the phrase ‘cognitive distortions’. He helped us understand that we often skew how we see things based on who we are – not as they are.
Think about it this way. We all have voices in our heads. The quiet whispers that tell us something is right or wrong, good or bad, interesting or dull. I call them the ‘Board of Directors’ (BODs) that live in our head. The mind is very powerful and can convince us of something that isn’t necessarily true. We become our own cognitive hazards. We develop those through our nature (the DNA of who we are) and our nurture (life experiences) backgrounds. They are unique to us.
Our BOD’s are the reason we all see situation and other people from different perspectives. Let’s look at six of the main Directors that get the way of us seeing things as they are:
The Always Righty
Always Righties feel like they are continually on trial, or on a mission, to prove why they are correct. Their favourite phrases include; ‘I’m just speaking the truth’; ‘I’m just being honest’; and ‘I’m not arguing. I’m explaining why I’m correct’. It’s hard for them to see others perspective, they are not great listeners and they can miss out on learning as a result. They are not searching for the whole truth in discussions because they believe their opinion is the main one that counts. It can be a blind spot for many.
The All About Me-er
We all focus on ourselves but this is where the Me-er has an excessive concern for self and the impact for them. Or how others perceive them. The believe (consciously or not) that everything is about them. They take things personally, can magnify their role in other’s lives – in positive and negative ways. It’s not natural for them to sit in others shoes.
Comparing yourself to others, and to yourself, can become the norm for Perfectionists. There’s a sense that it will never be enough at work, at home, in your relationships and you will never be enough. So you keep moving from one thing to the next to be become dissatisfied with. We make our success and happiness conditional in things being just so. It’s not the perfection that’s the problem; It’s the pursuit of it.
The Binary Thinker
Binary Thinkers think in absolutes. It’s good or bad; right or wrong; a success or a disaster; will work or won’t. There is very little middle ground. They don’t naturally entertain the gray and allow themselves to sit there. It fails to bring the negative and positive thinking into a whole and make sound decisions. This thinking creates a tension for us internally that limits out ability to listen to others, and ourselves, and learn.
Labellers make quick judgements about people and circumstances with little data and occurrences. The judge fast and are often not aware of it. Then they look for data and examples to prove their thinking so they can justify the opinion they have, or view they are taking. We do this when we meet people, see someone on TV or hear a pitch. The difference is when you are not good at dropping your initial judgement.
Comparers judge things in relation to others. Their life, career, success and sense of self is not defined by their own goals and values. It is assessed comparing to others. We compare our situation based on our age, our experience, our role, our peers, our friends or even where we sit in the family. Comparison stops them seeing and accepting the truth about ourselves because it’s grounded in things and people around us.
Unless we are aware that we see things through our own cognitive distortions listening, learning and conflict will often be hard and our own growth is stifled.
Georgia Murch is an expert in designing feedback cultures and helping people reconcile the feedback they give themselves. She is a best-selling author and has just launched her third book, Flawsome; The Journey to Being Whole is Learning to be Wholey. For more information of how she can help people and organisations, visit georgiamurch.com.