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Rod Webb

Glasstap Limited

Director and Co-Founder

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Don’t Buy Fiat Drivers a Christmas Present


I loved last week’s excellent Managers’ Library Insight from Frances, ‘A Different Perspective’, and it inspired me to revisit a human trait that disappoints and fascinates me in almost equal measure. 

I’m talking (again) of Confirmation Bias, that strange phenomenon that goes some way to explaining stereotypes, prejudice and ill feeling, and which, importantly, also explains why boring, presentation style training won’t make a difference. 

Last week, I popped to Ashburton in Devon for some last-minute Christmas shopping. (A wonderful place to visit for its unusual shops by the way – though I appreciate that information’s of limited use if, for example, you’re in Sydney.)

As I tried to leave the car park, a Fiat driver, in an apparent act of selfishness (I choose my words carefully), blocked me from pulling out onto the road. This was almost immediately followed by an act of generosity from a Volkswagen driver, who didn’t need to pause, but stopped and beckoned me out anyway.

Why do I mention the car manufacturers? Well, because obviously, the conclusion I drew from this encounter is that Volkswagen drivers are much nicer than Fiat drivers, who are despicable.

Next time I go out, I will undoubtedly see another Fiat driver behave in a similarly ungenerous way, which will prove my point. How do I know I’ll see one? Well, because there are a lot out there, and I only need one to validate my newly formed opinion. At the same time, I’ll notice another act of kindness by someone driving a BMW and realise that ALL German car drivers are truly wonderful people. 

Then I’m going to start behaving aggressively towards the vile Fiat drivers. Why should I let any of them out, if they’re going to be so appalling? Of course, that might affect their behaviour towards me, but that will just serve to reinforce my belief in their absolute horribleness!

Or, at least that’s what could happen. And my feelings at the very start point, about the Fiat driver who didn’t let me out, were built on what could have been a completely false assumption: Perhaps the driver simply didn’t notice me waiting until he’d already blocked me?

If I’ve got any Fiat drivers left reading this, please be assured that you’re almost certainly just as nice as the drivers of any other type of car!

The point is this. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re all actively looking for ‘evidence’ that supports our existing view of the world (even if that view is false), and we’ll ignore or belittle evidence that doesn’t support what we think we already know. 

Don’t believe me? Try comparing the Facebook timeline of someone who supported Brexit to someone’s on the Remain side. Or someone who supported Trump compared to someone who didn’t. The timelines will give you an interesting glimpse into their ‘reality’.

If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s how difficult it is to change people’s opinions with facts and figures. We simply don’t listen to what we don’t want to hear.

We can all do as we’re told, grudgingly, but if people don’t believe in what they’re doing, sooner or later, they’ll try to find an excuse to stop doing it. The behaviours that come naturally to us are those driven by our beliefs. And beliefs are shaped by experiences, not from being told stuff. 

I passionately believe that all training needs to reflect this, which is why you’ll find so much material that’s unusual, different, fun, and above all, experiential in Trainers’ Library.

There’s some great activities linked to the cycle of belief I’ve outlined above, including:

Leaping to Assumptions – The Ladder of Inference
Minority Reports – Attitudes, Behaviours and Beliefs

And if you’re looking for great training that encourages participants to consider the other person’s perspective, try:

Island of Opportunity
Different Perspectives
Restaurant Revolution
Emotional Intelligence 2
Aquatic Experience

Thanks for reading. Oh, and just to clarify, it turns out that it is, in fact, perfectly acceptable to buy your Fiat driving friends a Christmas present after all!

Merry Christmas Everyone and Happy New Year.

Rod Webb

Author Profile Picture
Rod Webb

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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