Bias has a negative connotation in communication. Bias is really a view of the world, a perspective, a lens, or a paradigm. Bias becomes negative if it interferes with one’s ability to see clearly or through a neutral lens.
When information is evaluated it is best done from a neutral perspective. It’s important to understand how bias affects decision-making. It can skew the way information is incorporated into a decision and it can weight information in a way that is inaccurate from an un-biased or neutral perspective.
We need perspectives or world views to order or structure our thinking – so we have to be constantly creating and tearing down bias. This process is dynamic and I think of it as conscious paradigm shifting. It’s similar to making goals and then re-evaluating these goals as we get new information – – we need to be flexible and we need to be able to be clear or stand in the center of our belief systems – authentic; we need both of these qualities to make decisions in an ever-changing environment.
It is helpful to accept that we each hold a bias and knowing what your biases are helps to clarify the decision-making process and to re-orient you toward neutrality.
The problem is that often our biases feel like reality or truth so we can’t separate ourselves from them – we are blind to our biases. We have difficulty viewing our personal paradigm from the perspective of neutrality precisely because we see from within the lens of the bias – so it feels as if the bias is truth. So it is difficult to move out of our biases into a neutral perspective for evaluation. It’s difficult to separate the bias from our worldview because it is coupled to it. It usually requires a paradigm shift.
This is where mindfulness is so useful.
The concept of mindfulness includes moving into a neutral perspective and viewing our biases with a perspective of discovery rather than judgment.
Looking at a physical representation of bias or paradigm – figure ground images – helps to elucidate the concept of a paradigm shift.
When you look at this image, do you see a blue vase with flowers or a smiling white bear with blue eyes, nose and smile? Each view is visible depending on your perspective, focus, lens or bias on figure or ground.
What about this image> Do you see a man playing the saxophone or the face of a beautiful woman?
And finally with this image: is it two profiles that carve out a candlestick in the center or a single face with a candlestick in front of the face?
These images allow for evaluation of (at least) two paradigms at once and the experience of paradigm shifting.
So here are some ways to help yo move into neutrality in decision-making and also get a handle on what your bias is and whether you want to keep it.
- If you feel defensive wait – stop talking, breathe, open your mind, be open to what the other person is trying to say – move into receive rather than send in your communication.
- If you feel angry, wait – stop talking, breathe, open your mind, try to receive what the other person is trying to say – try to simultaneously discover what is triggering an angry response in you.
- If you have a block or just can’t understand – or see – what the other person is saying – stop, try to look at it from a different perspective and see if you can identify what perception or interpretation you have that may be blocking your understanding of the other person’s point of view.
- I am not suggesting that you must agree with their point of view, I am suggesting understanding your bias comes from seeing both perspectives – that is the example of the figure-ground images above.
Increasing your awareness and applying your mindfulness to the situation allows for interpretation of bias in decision-making. This may result in a different course of action. It may not result in a change, but in this case you will be able to support that decision through a more mindful, neutral approach. It may allow for a negotiation that incorporates both paradigms – not a compromise, but a collaboration or blending that meets the needs or perspectives of both parties.
Applying this approach to the word bias helps – try to neutralize your interpretation of that word – be descriptive in your definition rather than adding the extra feeling-charge or connotation that often goes with that word. It will help you relate to both your own and other’s biases in a more useful and productive way.
See you tomorrow.