As part of our focus on radical open mindedness it is necessary to look at our ego. This impacts the way we make decisions, form opinions, and hold discussions with others (in particular, colleagues). So before you tune out, thinking this article is not relevant to you because “I don’t have an ego, I am a very humble”, we all have an ego to some extent. It’s not at the “I am better than everyone else” level of ego, where it begins to impact our behaviour.
How does ego effect our behaviour?
Our ego impacts our decision making and discussions in a number of keyways. The first I will discuss is how it impacts the way we digest information. Once we have an opinion, we will want to engage in information (e.g. research, points of view, and social media posts) which supports that opinion. We will give more credence to the information which supports our opinion and discredit that which does not. This occurs naturally as a mechanism of a) us wanting to feel confident in ourselves (supporting the ego), and b) out of our inherent laziness (it’s much easier to hold our initial opinion than to change it). Of course, what this does do is leave us vulnerable to being incorrect, through discrediting valuable information, and unjust loyalty (ultimately vailing laziness) to our initial opinion. But the initial decision-making process is not the only place our ego impacts our performance.
When, it then comes to trading ideas with other (in particular colleagues), we as a standard enter discussing topics with a mindset of proving yourselves of “being right” as oppose to “finding what is right”. Again this leads us to dismiss what others are saying (if it opposes our opinion) rather than openly and honestly look at how their differing of perspective of the same situation, and most importantly how the individual arrived at that differing opinion, relates to our working and opinion. We often waste precious time, and compromise what is best for the team, by our ego hijacking us to maintain “being right” not “finding what is right.
To prevent this for yourself and your team practice the following steps when decision making and discussing.
- First and most important step – Recognise that we all have an ego. Acknowledge that although it can help buoy our self-esteem and worth, it can also limit our effectiveness. By owning this you can openly question yourself in a positive manner.
- Consciously research for opinions, perspectives and data which refutes your opinion. Take the time to identify how these opinions and perspectives were reached and at what points you and the other person differed in your interpretation of data and perceived important points.
- During meetings take the time to discuss how people arrived at their opinions, not just their final opinion. One person saying red and the other saying blue repeatedly is not effective discussion. Understanding how each person arrived at these end conclusions identifies where the true differences stem from.
- Reframe people questioning your opinions as an opportunity to re-test your own opinion. Don’t view them as a direct attack on your abilities or experience.
- When discussing points with people, continuously question yourself. Am I arguing for myself (prove myself to be right), or to find what is right?
- For managers, create an environment which de-leverages the impact of “being wrong” for staff. By doing so you will encourage your team to discuss issues more effectively. Also, when people do change their perspective, it won’t be seen as a “punishment” to follow the differing opinion.
Finally, remember that in an argument, at least one person is wrong. How do you honestly know that its not you? You won’t be right every single time in your life. So, practice open mindedness. Don’t argue an incorrect perspective to the point of looking like a goose.