I know. I know. It’s your friend’s favorite pastime that you love to hate: “How can s/he miss the obvious? Why can’t s/he see the world from someone else’s shoes?” Until you realize that you probably fare no better on this count. And you pause to come to terms with this rude awakening.
I’ve been on a personal mission over the last week: question myself, question my assumptions, question my preferences, and question my attitudes. I’ve made a small headway in finding answers, but nowhere close to what I can claim “self-realization.” For what it’s worth, here goes:
- Speculative: Your brain is just like any other part of your body that’s lazy, and looking to shortcut hard work. Unless you’ve got a higher lever that exercises effective “command and control” over your brain (or mind), it finds comfort in going idle, speculation, and drawing conclusions.
- Judgmental: Being judgmental is mildest on the brain. This lets it conveniently bypass the rigor of having to defend against an unpopular truth as you confront: Your brain convinces you to dig for falsehood in the truth, and equips you with weapons called “preferences” and “assumptions”.
- Stereotyping: The brain absolutely loves to categorize. It routinely puts people/things/experiences into buckets even before you become intimately familiar with those. Why? It’s not because the brain thinks it has enough information about X to stereotype it as Y. Rather, it’s precisely because it lacks information, combined with its lethargy to compensate for this lack with greater interaction. It takes the easy way out: “Hmm… let me safely guess, X must be like Y, because it surely can’t resemble Z.”
- Prejudiced: When your brain encounters a flood of data, the first response oftentimes is to withdraw (e.g. got a long email: “Read It Later” because, hey, ain’t I busy now?). Converting data to information, and later to knowledge requires processing time and energy. How best to avoid this? Accept the conclusions someone else has drawn, often without questions asked. Not only can your brain take a nap while your eyes get exercised, it can also indulge in the above three activities meanwhile. Sooner than you realize, this would have morphed into bias or prejudice. This sits as a lump in your brain whenever you encounter something new, depriving that new a fair chance to make its first impression on you.