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The Crime Your Brain Commits Against You (And What to Do About It)

The Crime Your Brain Commits Against You (And What to Do About It)

In 1932, Frederic Bartlett was working at Cambridge University when he conducted one of the most famous cognitive psychology experiments of all time.

For this research study, Bartlett recited a Native American folk tale called The War of the Ghosts to each participant. Then, Bartlett followed up with each person several times over the following year and asked them to tell the story back to him.

As you might expect, the story shortened over time as participants forgot certain details.

What wasn’t expected, however, was that each person adapted the story to fit their expectations of a “normal” world. You see, each participant was British, and this Native American story had a few cultural details that would have seemed out of place in British society.

Each subject adjusted the story so that it would make more sense in the British view of the world. Confusing details were slowly altered each time the story was retold. Participants began to emphasize the more rational parts of the folk tale. The order of events were shifted around to make more sense.

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Bartlett’s research was the first major study that proved how our beliefs about the world can actively change the way we remember and interpret information.

But, why did the subjects change the story? And how can this help you master your mental habits and achieve your goals?

Here’s the deal…

The Power of Schemas

In psychology terms, Bartlett’s subjects were displaying what is known as a “schema.” A schema is a set of preconceived ideas that your brain uses to perceive and interpret new information.

We form schemas based on our experiences in life. Once they are formed, however, schemas have a tendency to remain unchanged — even in the face of contradictory information.

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In other words, your brain creates an “auto-pilot” version of how it thinks the world should work, and sometimes you keep using it even when it’s no longer true or helpful. This is why Bartlett’s subjects changed the details of the story. The original version didn’t fit the way they thought the world should work, so they adjusted it until it seemed more reasonable.

This is important because schemas not only impact the memories you have about the outside world, but also the things you believe about yourself.

For example:

If a mother tells her daughter she looks like a tom boy, her daughter may react by choosing activities that she imagines a tom boy would do. Conversely, if the mother tells her she looks like a princess, her daughter might choose activities thought to be more feminine… the individual chooses activities based on expectations instead of desires. (Source)

Imagine that little girl after she has grown up. It’s easy to see how the schemas and beliefs that were formed early on could continue to impact her actions years later.

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Unlearn What You Believe to be True

The idea to write this article was sparked by a reader named Kim who emailed me and said, “Sometimes we carry old beliefs around, unknowingly, that don’t serve us anymore.”

Schemas can be like this sometimes. You have old beliefs and experiences that tend to push you in a certain direction or color your thoughts in a certain way, but they aren’t necessarily serving you anymore.

It’s good to take a step back and think about your beliefs about life. Ask yourself, “Is this true? Or am I just limiting myself with these beliefs?”

For example:

  • Getting healthy — is eating junk food really a way to “treat yourself” and “enjoy the good stuff in life,” or are you telling yourself a story that isn’t really true?
  • Building a business — do you really need to wait until X happens before you start that side business or startup? Or are you just telling yourself a story that allows you to maintain what you’re currently doing instead of chasing what you’re capable of doing?
  • Traveling the world — is it true that “only single people without kids” can travel far and wide? Or is that just an expectation left over from what you have typically seen?

What old beliefs are you still carrying that aren’t serving you anymore?

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Sometimes, you have to unlearn the things that you believe to be true. You don’t have to see the world the same way you’ve always seen it. Just because it was true in the past, doesn’t mean it’s true today. And just because you learned something one way, doesn’t mean you learned it the best way.

Don’t let yesterday’s beliefs dictate the story that you live out today.

Featured photo credit: Grand Canyon National Park via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

Conflicts are literally everywhere.

Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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