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Breaking Down Barriers: Overcoming Biases and Judgments in Communication

Check out the full Building Rapport: Communication Skills to Surpass Small Talk course


Full transcript

The following video is an excerpt from my course building rapport going beyond small talk with advanced communication skills. If you like what you see in the video, check out the link below to get the full course, including the content that I haven’t included in this video.

In this video, we’re going to talk about breaking down barriers, overcoming your biases and your judgments in conversations. You have to start by understanding there is no such thing as an objective perspective and as a human being you’re always biased, you’re always skewed in your perceptions, you always have something you tend towards and something you avoid. You’re always cutting out information, dismissing evidence without even knowing that you’re doing it. I won’t go into all the ways that the brain tricks itself into believing things. But if you can go into a conversation with another person knowing that you’re going to be judging them, and you’re going to be incorrect in your judgments, that will go a long way to helping you build a connection.

So we have an evolutionary reflex to judge other people and to deem people who are different to us as a threat. This is why you see so much tribalism and division in society these days, it’s actually always been that way, we always think of the other group as the enemy, we’re wired to think that even though we always have more in common with them than we do have differences. We’re hyper focused on those differences because 1000s and 1000s of years ago those were genuine threats, these days not so much.

But you have to stop treating other people as a potential threat, you have to stop looking for the bad in them because that is a skewed bias, you’re not looking at them accurately. Now they might be harmful people, that you’re actually overlooking exactly how harmful they are when you jump to conclusions. Now if your judgments are unfair, or unreasonable or even too positive, if they are in any way too inaccurate, you will disconnect from the other person. So putting someone on a pedestal is the same as seeing them as scum. It’s dehumanizing. You’re objectifying them, you’re seeing yourself as different to them, you’re almost creating a different species of human to which you don’t belong. And that is not how you build rapport and build a connection with someone.

A connection is built on the idea that we are the same, not that we are different. And it’s not to say that we’re exactly the same. But the things that we have in common are more important and more relevant than the differences, the differences are just like the flavor. It’s what we have in common that we really connect on. So we’re going to be looking for that, we’re going to manually override that instinct we have to look for the threats and look for what’s different, and instead try to look underneath those superficial surface differences to find how we’re the same.

Now, this doesn’t mean we have to love everybody. But it’s making sure that when we choose people, we do so with accurate information, so that we don’t dismiss potentially good connections, and that we don’t invite in potentially abusive connections. But how are we supposed to do this? How do we deal with biases and judgments when they cannot be prevented, when you cannot stop your brain from doing this?

Well, it’s very simple, we share them as they come up. We open our minds to being challenged and corrected, we open the possibility of awkwardness and maybe difficult conversations by letting people know the real things that we’re thinking about them, that secret inner world that we usually hide from people behind a smile. We’re gonna let them know the things that we’re guessing about them, judging, assumptions that we’re making, conclusions that we’ve drawn on little evidence, we’re going to show them all of that and be prepared to be wrong.

You can think about it almost like you’re talking about someone else, or that you have a sports commentator in your mind who’s revealing all the plays as they happen. You’re going to take a somewhat detached perspective from yourself and talk about yourself and about the judgments and the thought processes that you’re having as just a curious, interesting fact to share.

I’ll give you some examples.

You know, that makes me think that you’re a conservative politician. I don’t know why I think that.

When you said that, the first thing I assumed was that you don’t like me.

I’ve interpreted what you’ve said as a kind of attack on me, like you’re trying to win an argument.

When you did that, I couldn’t stop myself from judging you as someone who is tight with money.

Being honest and upfront like this might sound a bit harsh, but if you’re doing so from a place of like, I want you to correct me, it will actually be received positively most of the time, or at least by people who are a good connection for you. What’s really critical is that you show both in your tone and your body language and your words that you are really open to being corrected. What you’re saying is, I’ve noticed this thing that I’ve done in my head, and I’m suspicious of that thing because it might not be based on good evidence and it might be my brain’s tendency to be biased and so on, and I want you to give me more information to help me get it more accurate, correct me, tell me how I’m wrong.

In this kind of approach you take – especially when somebody seems hurt or offended by your judgments – you take complete ownership of those judgments. You say, tell me how I’m wrong. I’m willing to learn here. I don’t always make the right guesses about people, I don’t always get an accurate impression of people. I want to know who you really are so tell me how I’m wrong. Tell me why what I’ve seen offends you, and what the more accurate thing to say would have been.

This will help you identify how accurate you actually are. Because if you’re right about someone, the next response and the response after that won’t really change your mind. You know, they might be really defensive, but they don’t actually have any sort of discussion or evidence to change your perspective of them. And then, of course, if you are wrong, the person will say this, this, this and this, and you’ll realize, well, I didn’t really think of it that way, or that changes the way I think about things, or the way I look at you doesn’t include that evidence. And you’ll see that you’re wrong, and you’ll feel that resistance, but you’ll have to just let go of your original conclusion and incorporate that new evidence, and try to get a more accurate view of the person. As long as you’re trying to do that, that connection can stay. But if you’re like, No, I’ve come to a conclusion, nothing will ever change my mind, you will put up a wall between you and the other person. They are now officially unable to connect with you.

Of course, this is going to go both ways, isn’t it? People are going to judge you unfairly and incorrectly. And when they do that, you’ve got to call out that they’ve done that. However, you don’t explain yourself or justify yourself, unless they show open curiosity and they desire to be more accurate just like you do. So if like we’ve talked about in this video, they say, well tell me how I’m wrong or like, Well, you tell me a bit more about you, help me understand, and you can feel that that’s a genuinely curious exploration kind of frame that they’re bringing, well, then you can give them more details.

If they’re more kind of conservative in their mindset, where they’re like, No, I’ve already decided, or they seem to be asking questions but you don’t feel curiosity coming through, like they’re kind of pretending to be interested in more information, then you don’t need to say any more. You can simply say, look, you’ve obviously come to a conclusion about me and you’re not open to more information. So we’ll leave it there.

Never defend yourself, because when you do you validate the idea that you need to be defended, that creates self doubt. Right? Defending yourself against somebody’s unfair and inaccurate interpretation of view is not something you actually need to do. You can simply say, you’re not correct, and if you want to know the correct answer, feel free to ask me questions. If you’re not interested, then you just hold on to that. And anybody watching this will see that you’re confident in yourself and that you’re sure of other information that isn’t being presented. And they will doubt the person who’s being unfair to you, rather than you. But if you get defensive and try to prove yourself, you’re the one who will be doubted, not just by other people, but by yourself.

Try not to punish people who judge you wrong, because all humans do this all the time, and you want to connect with somebody, right? So understand that they are the victims of their own brains, weaknesses, and biases and fallacies. And you can just ask them, Do you want me to correct you? and you can see if they’re the kind of person who is interested in getting to know who you really are, or more interested in holding onto their beliefs. If they are interested in getting to know who you are, then this judgment that’s come up is actually a gateway to a deeper connection.

A favorite tip of mine that I got from somebody else on Tik Tok, and I can’t remember who they are, is when somebody is doing sort of passive aggressive of judgment type unfair things to you, just say to them right to their face: Are you trying to help me or are you trying to hurt me right now? And it’s a real game changer because somebody who is trying to hurt you gets called out by it. And somebody who doesn’t mean to hurt you will backstep and try and rethink what they’re saying.

I highly recommend doing a web search for cognitive biases and logical fallacies, and try to learn like one a day and get used to the idea of critical thinking, get used to the idea of not trusting the brain’s judgments, because they are not accurate. And if I remember, I’ll include some resources in the resource section for this video.

One thing you can do is practice people watching. For example, if you see a homeless person, try to imagine a situation where you would end up homeless, or if you see a celebrity, imagine the struggles you might have in common with them. Constantly look at other people, instead of trying to see how they’re different try to see how you’re the same, to see how you have things in common, to see how you might be like them if certain things have happened to you. And this will help train you to override that instinct you have to look for the threat and the differences, which are few and superficial. Look for the commonalities which are much more prevalent, but it’s simple: you ask a question, How am I like them? rather than how am I not like them?

Thank you so much for watching this video. If you’d like to master social skills and become somebody who can connect with anybody, especially somebody you like, get in touch dan@brojo.org And we’ll talk about authenticity coaching. Thank you very much

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