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Overcoming Confirmation Bias: Listen

June 23, 2023
Overcoming Confirmation Bias

Listen and try to understand what the person on the other side of the desk is really trying to say to you – don’t fall into the trap of confirmation bias 

Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs, and to ignore or dismiss information that contradicts them. This can be a problem in communication, as it can lead us to misunderstand the other person’s point of view. 

For example, let’s say you’re in a meeting with a colleague who is arguing in favor of a new marketing campaign. You’re not convinced that the campaign is a good idea, but you don’t want to seem close-minded, so you listen to your colleague’s arguments. However, as you listen, you find yourself focusing on the parts of their argument that confirm your own beliefs about the campaign. You may also start to dismiss the parts of their argument that contradict your beliefs. 

This is an example of confirmation bias in action. By focusing on the information that confirms our existing beliefs, we can easily end up misunderstanding the other person’s point of view. This can lead to poor communication and decision-making. 

Tips to Avoid Confirmation Bias 

So how can we avoid confirmation bias in communication? Here are a few tips: 

  • Be aware of your own biases – The first step to overcoming confirmation bias is to be aware of your own biases. What are your beliefs about the topic at hand? What are your assumptions about the other person? Once you’re aware of your biases, you can start to challenge them. 
  • Listen actively – When you’re in a conversation, try to listen actively to the other person. This means paying attention to what they’re saying, both verbally and nonverbally. It also means asking questions to clarify their points and to make sure you understand their point of view. Listening is not just waiting to speak! 
  • Be open to new information – When the other person is sharing their information, try to be open to new insights, even if this initially contradicts your own beliefs. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they say, but it does mean being willing to consider their point of view. 
  • Ask clarifying questions – If you’re not sure what the other person is saying, or if you think you might be misinterpreting their point of view, don’t fill in the gaps with assumptions: ask clarifying questions. There is a real art to asking good questions; it requires your own thought process to be clear, in order to know how to frame the question. Good questions are not judgmental and do not presuppose an answer, they are genuinely seeking more data or insight. 

Confirmation bias is a common problem in communication, but it’s one that we can overcome. By following these tips, we can become more aware of our own biases and more open to new information. This will help us to communicate more effectively and thus, to make better decisions.

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