Squeaky Wheel

As you interact with people, you likely recognize some people as very quiet. Meanwhile, others are vocal Some of these people may express their opinion whether you want it or not. And, others will be insistent that the conversation and focus is on them and only on them. These people are squeaky wheels who want to determine for you where you put your focus and energy.

 

Different Shapes and Sizes

 

Squeaky wheels come in many different forms. Sometimes the one demanding attention is the boastful star employee. Other times the overly dramatic child demands 100% of your attention. At other times, it is a small handful of customers who demand everything be done their way. Squeaky wheels can also be political activists or the news media.

 

Desire to Placate the Squeaky Wheel

 

It is understandable to want to placate the squeaky wheel. Most people want to fix what is wrong or support those who are in need. However, often people are driven to focus their energy toward the squeaky wheel for two more personal reasons. First, and simplest, they simply desire peace and quiet. The second reason is that they want to be seen as taking action on the situation.

 

In the second scenario, often the person reacts and takes a stab at doing something very quickly to address the situation. This action is any action that appears to address the situation. However, it is typically an action taken without thoroughly thinking through the situation, the true causes of the situation, or the consequences of the action being taken.

 

For example, a CEO may commit in a meeting with a large client to making a change that the client is advocating be made. However, often that CEO hasn’t taken time to understand the problem that the client is attempting to solve. Likewise, often they do not understand enough about the details of their product to know the effort, cost of such a change, and impact to other customers. In the long run, the requested change may not solve the customer’s problem. However, they are the hero(ine) in the moment.

 

Real Solutions

 

Real solutions require much more effort than solutions decided in the spur of the moment. It is critical to search for the underlying problem instead of acting in the moment or simply giving the squeaky wheel what they are demanding. Without taking time to search for the underlying problem, the likelihood of a “solution” actually solving the problem is low. In some cases, the solution may actually worsen the problem.

 

You can be more successful when you take time to investigate the issue at hand.   Looking deeply at issues and understanding true cause and effect can lead to a more complete understanding of the underlying problems.  By understanding these problems, you can create real, lasting solutions.

 

That said, at times, it can be a struggle to hold out for a real solution because the squeaky wheel often ratchets up their pressure to meet their demands. However, it is critical not to simply give in to get the squeaky wheel to quiet down. Doing so, can cost time, money, and even your way of life. And, to what benefit? If you take this path, in the future, you will likely be right back where you are today doing it all over again.

 

Missing The Important

 

An often-overlooked aspect of listening only to the squeaky wheel is what you are missing. If you just listen to one child, what do you miss with other children? How does it affect your relationship with them? Similar questions can be said about your quiet clients, friends, constituents, members of your congregation, and members of society in general. If you only listen to those that squeak, what are you missing?

 

Things you may be missing are as diverse as our population. You may miss developing an employee with great potential, you may miss that a friend or child is struggling with drugs or alcohol, you may miss signs of mental health issues, and you may miss the desires of the majority. By not listening to the broader community, it is almost guaranteed that you are missing a part of the picture.

 

All the Voices

 

Thus, it is imperative to focus your energy on listening to all the voices. It is important to list to the child who is experiencing many issues, but it cannot be at the cost of ignoring your other children. Likewise, you cannot listen only a select few employees, ignoring all others.

 

The key here is to really listen. It is important to explore and get to the bottom of the issue. After understanding, consider options, get input, and take thoughtful action. It is only through thoughtful action that addresses real issues that effective change can be made!

 

An Authentic Life

Living an authentic life is a concept that is easy to understand, but often challenging to implement. This year has presented more challenges for the general population than the typical year. Thus, living an authentic life today is even more challenging than ever.

 

Living Authentically

 

In the simplest terms, living an authentic life means being who you really are. This means that you let go of who others say you are and who they want you to be. You are also honest with yourself about both your positive and negative attributes.

 

You can start by defining basic attributes that someone might use to describe you. Perhaps you are tall, have medium skin, blue eyes, and brown hair. You can dye your hair, wear contacts that change your eyes color, and go to a tanning salon. Still, your DNA will indicate that you are tall with medium skin, blue eyes, and brown hair. You can pretend to be different, but that isn’t who you are underneath.

 

Additionally, when living authentically, you recognize your achievements, give credit to others where credit is due, and take the blame when appropriate. This relates very much to the concept of taking 100% responsibility. Taking too much or too little responsibility never leads you to authenticity or happiness. If you take responsibility or claim credit when someone else should be doing the work, did the work, or is to blame, you are cheating the other person and yourself. Thus, 100% responsibility is a key ingredient to living authentically.

 

2020 Challenges

 

Under the best of circumstances, living an authentic life takes work. 2020 has added challenges that make it even more difficult to maintain the focus and internal personal view that is required to create and maintain an authentic life.

 

COVID-19

 

COVID-19 has brought out interesting behaviors in people. Most of which have been brought about because of fear, as we discussed in a recent article, “Why Fear?” The combination of fear, ever-changing rules, and unknowns present challenges to people. As a result, people end up with differing opinions and different interpretations of the rules. Some of these people choose to chastise those who see things differently than they do.

 

Even when pressure is applied with the best intention, it often results in the other person fighting back – at least mentally. You may find that although you are acting and even believing things that are not aligned with who you really are. You may even push back against them although you agree with the person in principle.

 

Likewise, the COVID rules may drive you to behave in ways that are not aligned with your experience or desires. For instance, if you are an extrovert or a person who likes lots of physical touch, you may not be behaving in alignment with those qualities. It is important to recognize those attributes of yourself and find a way to honor them.

 

The History of Our Country

 

Protests, riots, and destruction have also created pressure to destroy our past and for the country to become something it is not. Like it or not, the country was not formed by people that simply came together, sang “Imagine,” and lived in perfect harmony. Instead, it was a hard fight. People had different perspectives, but in the end the people came together as one country.

 

Like it or not, our country’s history is our country’s history. Owning up to the country’s history is just as important as owning up to your own personal history. Without both, you can’t live an authentic life. Like with historical statues that have been dismantled, you can ignore and take your history out of sight, but it is still part of who you are.

 

Pretending that your past isn’t your past never leads to an authentic life. Now, you can do internal work to grow from your past and it is something that you don’t have to outwardly share in all situations. However, you should never hide from it.

 

Race Wars

 

In addition, there is pressure to see our country in the midst of a race war despite the fact that people of all backgrounds have many positive interactions each day. This is not to say that prejudice does not exist. It does. Our article “Retraining the Brain” discusses bias and how it plays a part of everybody’s life.

 

With awareness, everyone can make better decisions and limit how bias affects decisions that they make. This does not, however, mean that anyone needs to denounce their ethnic background – even people of European heritage with a long history in this country. Instead, consider that each person has their own story that is made up of many attributes.  A portion of that story is the history of their ancestors.  But, the most important part of their story is their personal story and the life they have lived.  Facts of the past cannot be changed.

 

Similarly, an African American police officer can be proud to be African American and simultaneously be proud to serve as a police officer. According to some people, these officers are “no longer black;” they are blue. Again, their heritage and their occupation are both facts. They are what they are.

 

A person who is authentic will not apologize for facts about themselves. Additionally, an authentic life does not include guilt or victim-hood for events that occurred years before the person’s birth. They can be considerate and can make good decisions in their life with regards to people of all backgrounds. No one needs to take on the burden of the past. It is fact and it cannot be changed.

 

Cancel Culture

 

The current trend toward “cancelling” anything that someone dislikes also pressures people to be less than authentic. People are afraid that if they don’t outwardly support certain opinions that they, too, will be cancelled. They know that in today’s world, they don’t even have the option to remain silent. It is almost as if the right to remain silent has been stricken from the law books.

 

This pressure is very strong, especially for people in the public eye. Yet, according to Psychology Today, “The authentic person will not . . . let others bully them into taking a position they don’t agree with.” They go on to say, “Authenticity requires us to be able to overcome our desire to fit in and be part of the crowd.”

 

So, if you are feeling like you need to take up a position that you wouldn’t have considered taking up six months ago, you might want to ask yourself if you are being authentic. It is possible that you have become aware of an issue and now feel driven to support that position. However, it is also possible that you are simply being intimidated into a position that you don’t really support.

 

Leading An Authentic Life

 

It is more important than ever to focus on who you really are at the core. Act based on your life, your beliefs, your values, your opinions, and your knowledge. At this time, it is critical that you really think things through. Know that you are 100% responsible for your life and your decisions. However, you are not responsible for other people’s life choices.

 

You can be compassionate and empathetic. Listen. Learn. Those are good things that enhance our lives and help us to be more authentic. Just be careful of the trap of taking on someone else’s view of who you are. By doing so, you nearly always become less authentic.

 

If you would like to work toward a more authentic life, consider our “Finding Your Authentic Self” coaching sessions.

 

 

The Salem Witch Trials

I have always been fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials. The belief that witchcraft was behind unexplained fits of young girls resulted in accusations of witchcraft being thrown in every direction is quite intriguing. I would love to know what “caused” those symptoms the girls displayed. The bigger question, however, is . . . Why did accusations of witchery become popular in 1692?

 

The Salem Witch Trials of 1692

 

Looking back at what is known about the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials, we find young girls behaving in an unusual manner. Not knowing what caused the behavior, it was believed that the girls were possessed by the devil. They then accused three women of being witches and bringing this upon them. Thus, the first case of witchery came to trial.

 

Oddly, there were other girls that soon exhibited the same symptoms. Hence more cases. Still, more and more accusations abounded in Salem and other areas more distant. By May of that year, there were so many cases that a special court was appointed to handle them.

 

Even upstanding members of the community were accused and found guilty of being witches. Rebecca Nurse, a possible distant relative of mine, was one of those people. In her case, they found her not guilty, then guilty, then she received a reprieve, and finally she was hung. She was 71 and was supported by a large number of people in the community. Yet, it didn’t save her.

 

In most cases, however, men and women were found guilty based solely on the accusation. None of them were allowed to have lawyers and had a difficult time defending themselves. Have you ever tried proving that you aren’t a witch?

 

The question was . . . Why were so many people so willing to believe that members of the community were witches? Speculation includes that the people funneled their fear of outsiders and other fears into the witchcraft hysteria.

 

The hysteria quickly wound down and dissipated in 1693. Many of the convicted witches were later fully exonerated. Unfortunately, it was too late for those who were hung or died in prison.

 

McCarthyism

 

In 1953, Arthur Miller brought the Salem Witch Trials to life in his play “The Crucible.” He was driven to write the play because of current events. At the time, Senator Joseph McCarthy used “witch hunts” in the name of stopping the spread of communism.

 

McCarthy was a fearmonger, constantly stirring the fear of Communism, which was very pervasive in the 1950s. The fear was so strong that many people were accused of being communist or communist sympathizers. Many of them lost their jobs or were blacklisted despite not belonging to the Communist Party. Others were afraid to object for fear that they, too, would be given the badge of communist.

 

Those accused were investigated or questioned before panels. Like the Salem Witch Trials, accusations were often accepted even when there was a lack of evidence. Likewise, the risk the person posed to the country was often elevated. Still, the damage was done although many decisions would later be reversed or determined to be illegal.

 

Repeating The Past

 

It is 2020 and despite the 5th and 14th amendments to the Constitution guaranteeing due process we are again repeating the Salem Witch Trials. The witch trials have been modernized, but they still have the same principle of guilt by accusation.

 

In today’s world, you aren’t likely to be hung after an unfair trial where you have to defend yourself. Instead you are “cancelled” by a decision of the Internet mob. In cancel culture, you aren’t given a chance to defend yourself at all. The Internet mob decides what is right and what is wrong. You can be found guilty by association. Worse yet, you can be found guilty for not publicly taking a stance on an issue at all.

 

It seems that like in 1692, fear has driven the world a bit mad. Today it isn’t a fear of witches or communism that is behind the accusations. Yet, it remains a fear based on people being different and having different perspectives.

 

The Tech Giants and the mob rule simply do not allow for free thought and conversation. They have decided to take the law into their own hands and change all the rules. One and only one opinion is allowed in the social media court. Wish to explain yourself or even to apologize and you just may find yourself banned from the platform.

 

If you think it is only people with extremist viewpoints that are banned, I suggest you do more research. Like Rebecca Nurse, who was an upstanding citizen respected by many, you may be accused if you don’t parrot “the stance” perfectly.

 

What We Can Learn?

 

So, what can we learn from our current situation? First, history does repeat itself unless you learn from it. Clearly, we have not yet learned this lesson.

 

Second, there are many dimensions to being different. Anytime someone is condemned simply because they are different it is wrong.

 

Third, judging without a fair trial or worse without any facts is a disgrace. And, it means that a majority of the time you will be wrong.

 

And, fourth, fear can drive people to act a little crazy. As discussed in our recent article “Why Fear,” Franklin D. Roosevelt was correct when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

 

The bottom line is that we need to learn to accept people who are different – no matter what that difference may be. They may look different, act different, express their feelings in a different way, have different religious beliefs, have different political beliefs, raise their family in a different way, etc.

 

This sentiment was echoed on a Little House on the Prairie rerun as I was writing this article. Laura was pleading with the people of Walnut Grove to stop a woman who was considered odd from leaving town. Laura said, “So what if she was different? We’re all different!”

 

Walk In Your Shoes

You are likely familiar with phrases that include “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” Generally, that phrase is used to indicate that you don’t understand someone else’s situation until you have lived their life or at least understood their circumstances. It is very valuable to consider someone else’s situation before you judge them. Likewise, it is also important to walk in your own shoes.

 

Define Your Shoes

 

To walk in your own shoes, you first need to consider who you really are. What are your true experiences and beliefs? What are your goals? Your dreams?

 

This is a process of learning who you personally are without influence of the “shoulds” of the world. For example, if you dream of being a teacher, embrace that even if your parents or spouse think you would make a better lawyer than teacher.

 

After you define who you are, you can consider any information that you have gathered from trusted outside influences. Then, determine if you can glean any facts from the information that may be important as you move forward. If so, tweak your goals and dreams accordingly. It is important, however, not to lose focus of your true self. Likewise, don’t let educational and financial requirements for realizing your dream or reaching your goals determine those dreams. Always focus first on who you really are. You can focus later on how to get there!

 

Natural Feelings

 

Additionally, it is important that you feel your own feelings. If something makes you angry or sad, that is natural. What is not natural is to feel angry or sad because you are told that is the way you should feel. Feeling how you are told to feel instead of feeling how you truly feel is not being authentic.

 

Pressure

 

You always have influences within your personal circles. Friends and family often feel they know what you “should” do or how you “should” feel. In recent years this has been escalating within the media and groups outside people’s personal circles. More and more it is as if you don’t have a choice as to the actions you take or how you feel about a given situation. It has risen to the point that you can’t even be quiet and keep your perception to yourself as other people and groups will interpret a meaning from your silence.

 

Walk In Your Own Shoes

 

To truly walk in your own shoes, you must be authentic to yourself and ignore these outside influences. To do this, take in information, consider it thoughtfully, and decide how you feel about it. Then express your feeling or don’t based on what you desire.

 

Giving in to people who attempt to guilt you into feeling a certain way or taking a specific action is no different than giving the grade school bully your lunch money. Instead of folding, you must stand tall. Look them in the eye and take a step forward in life.

 

Only take those actions and feel feelings that are authentic to your beliefs and life experiences. When you cower to the influence of others, you lose your power. And, you lose who you really are.

 

Need help taking that first step, contact us and learn how Imagine If Coaching and Consulting can help you on your journey!

 

Facts Not Fear

This is the second post of a two-part series looking at fear related to the hot topics of 2020. In the first post, we took a look at fear surrounding COVID-19. In this post, we will dive into fear associated with the tense political climate surrounding the death of George Floyd, the protests, and the riots.   Then, we will consider why facts not fear are the solution.

 

George Floyd and Justice

 

The death of George Floyd was inexcusable and horrific. It should never happen to any human being. People should be outraged that this specific officer reportedly had many complaints against him. They should also be concerned that this was done with other officers in attendance.

 

This situation is a reason to be upset. It is a reason to want change. It is not a reason to harass, injure or shoot other police officers.

 

The recent attacks on police officers could be because people are upset about what happened to George Floyd. However, it is very possible that his death is simply an excuse for opportunists to attack other officers. It is important to ask, “What do these attacker expect to accomplish?” Perhaps they want to incite fear in the police community and the community at large. However, the attacks will not change what happened. Again, we should be asking “Why?”   What is their purpose?

 

The bigger story, however, that has overshadowed calls for equal treatment is the hijacking of the protests by people whose desire is simply to destroy. Those people are not about justice for George Floyd. They are not about bringing people together. They aren’t about any positive motivation. Instead, these groups of people are simply trying to create fear, destroy our cities, and create division in the country. Again, we should be asking the question, “Why?”

 

Defund The Police

 

The protests have now created a movement to defund the police. It seems like an extreme act to undertake in order to correct issues related to racism. If the intent is to completely get rid of police departments, you might want to ask, “Why do they want no police?” Most law-abiding citizens do not want to get rid of police departments. They want someone to call when they are in danger or have a crisis.

 

Now, some say that it is a way to move responsibilities to other groups rather than to put pressure on the police to handle so many vastly different issues. This, in my opinion, is something very different than defunding the police and should come with specific proposals and strategies. For instance, if you want facilities to help with mental health issues, that is great. However, that would be an entirely different hashtag. Again, you must ask, “Why?” Why if you want a restructuring of responsibilities for more specialized handling of an issue, do you chant, “Defund the police?”

 

What is the real goal? Ryan W. Miller discusses this issue in his article in USA Today: “What does ‘defund the police’ mean and why some say ‘reform’ is not enough?”

 

Political Climate

 

Now every large company is stating how they are going to donate money or in some other way address the issue of racism. The “why” for these statements is easy to answer. It is expected and if they do not make such a statement, they would be considered bad corporate citizens.

 

Still, it is a sign of the political climate. Even individuals are only allowed to publically have “the opinion” that they are supposed to have. It brings us back to the question, “Why?” Why have people become afraid to hear opposing opinions? Are they afraid they might be wrong? What is their motivation? What is it about utilizing fear instead of facts?

 

Facts Not Fear

 

It is important to arm yourself with facts despite all the people out there that want to fill you with fear. As Jerre Stead, executive chairman and CEO of Clarivate, was known to say in his AT&T days, “Facts are our friends.” Indeed they are. With facts, we can be concerned without fear. We can also be conscious of the motives behind those who seek to instill fear.

 

In order to accomplish a fact-based life, it is important to deeply think about what is going on in the world. Ask yourself, “Why?” about almost everything. This means not simply listening to the media or anyone else’s judgments. Instead, research, research, and research some more. Look at all kinds of resources and dig around until you find the facts.

 

It is through facts, conversation, and working together that we can make rational decisions for ourselves and our country. Make sure you don’t fall victim to unjustified terror which paralyzes.

 

Why Fear?

This is the first of a two-part series looking at fear. We will dive into the hot topics of 2020. In the first post, we will take a look at why fear of COVID-19 continues. In the second post, we look at fear associated with the tense political climate surrounding the death of George Floyd, the protests, and the riots.

 

Fear

 

Let’s start by talking about the famous phrase “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered the phrase during his first inaugural address in the midst of the Great Depression. There is great wisdom in this statement because fear limits us. And, it makes us more vulnerable to those who desire harm.

 

In Context

 

As meaningful as that statement is, far more can be gleaned by reading the statement in context.

 

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.

Source: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057/

In this more complete statement, it becomes evident that the reference was that fear was a major contributor holding the country back. Conquering fear was necessary in order to end the Great Depression.

 

Fear In America

 

These words are very relevant today as we seemingly deal with crisis after crisis.

 

COVID-19 and the recent political events have both induced or surfaced fear in America. Each of these issues is an important one to be addressed. Still, the fear that is being created does not serve us and does not solve any of these issues.

 

It is important to review the facts. Then, one must consider “why” fear is encouraged.

 

Taking a Look At COVID-19

 

Back in February (which seems like a lifetime ago) COVID-19 was first becoming known in America. Horrific stories were making their way here from Europe. The predictions were also dire. Therefore, it made sense to take extreme measures to protect the American population.

 

Flash forward four months. The medical community is now vastly more knowledgeable about the virus and its effects. The dire predictions have been realized and the curve has flattened. Still, panic of the coronavirus permeates society.

 

The Numbers

 

I thought it might help to look at some of the numbers from Colorado.  This puts them in a slightly different perspective than they are presented in daily counts. Let’s start with the most vulnerable – those over age 70. A lower percentage of total cases are in the 70-79 and 80+ age groups.  However, the number of cases in these age groups is higher proportionately than the population of this age group.

 

Additionally, the fatality rates in these groups are higher. Still, to give some perspective the fatalities to date have been .1% of the 70-79 population. It is slightly higher with a fatality rate of .4% of the people over 80. It is also important to remember that these death rates include all people that had COVID-19 at the time of death.  Some of these people died of something entirely different, but simply were positive for COVID-19.

 

In contrast, there are approximately 4.6 million people under 60 and there have only been approximately 400 deaths (less than 100th of a percent of the population) in that age range associated with COVID-19.

 

The Fear

 

Each of these lives is important. Concern and precautions are clearly warranted. If you are in a higher risk group, you may wish to take additional precautions. Likewise, if you are visiting an elderly relative or live with person with a deficient immune system, you may want to be more careful than the general public needs to be.

 

Still, you must consider whether it warrants continuing some of the extreme measures that have been undertaken and continuing the panic. Is telling people they should stay home still warranted when the reason given for the move originally was to flatten the curve? The curve is now flat, so why are we still strongly encouraged to stay home?

 

Somehow flattening the curve has turned into anxiety about going out of the house, a panic that everyone will die, and heightened fear in general. However, fear can lead to depression, cause people to avoid other needed medical care, and keep them from their families who they so desperately need. So, why embrace the fear? Instead, say, “No.” Then ask yourself, “Who is it that wants you to feel fear and why?”

 

Retrain the brain

In the first three articles in the Misconnection series, we explored misconnections that are created because of the illusion of a connection, because our survival instincts kick in, and because information is judged by our unique perspective. In this final installment of Misconnection, we discuss retraining the brain to make more accurate connections.

 

Recognizing Misconnections

 

The first step in retraining the brain to eliminate misconnections is to recognize that misconnections occur. For some people, realizing that their assumptions (i.e. connections) they have made about other people, situations, and events might not be accurate is a shock. These people trust the assumptions that their mind makes without giving them a second thought. Often, they don’t even consider that their mind has made a judgment.

 

Yet, everyone – even those who are conscious of misconnections – makes misconnections.

 

No Assumptions

 

It has been suggested by some that the solution to part of the issue is to simply stop making these connections. Those people believe that survival instincts, in particular, are out dated and no longer needed. However, this is not accurate.

 

Today, people need survival instincts as much as they ever did. It is just that what constitutes danger is always changing. In what would become the United States, people had to be highly aware of wild animals and unknown individuals. Encounters with either could be deadly.

 

Although dangers associated with animals and other human beings still exist, the dangers have transformed. Similarly, new dangers have been created, such as, dangers to our livelihood and identity, which didn’t exist 400 years ago.

 

Analysis

 

Often our instincts and other factors that influence connections don’t adapt fast enough to the ever-changing dangers. Thus, it is important for people to analyze the connections they make for accuracy. This applies to things identified as safe, as well as those identified as dangerous.

 

For each connection analyzed, the person should note the accuracy. When encountering something they deemed dangerous that was actually safe, the person should consider what made them believe the person or situation presented danger.

 

Likewise, when encountering someone that they felt was safe only to find out that they were not, the person should consider what made them feel the person was safe. Then, they should consider if there were flags that they missed.

 

Bias

 

This analysis should include independent research about the person or situation. The more knowledgeable a person becomes about a topic; the more likely they are to understand if they have made a good connection in their judgment of that person or situation.

 

However, it is critical to check the information for accuracy and bias. Reading biased information just leads to more bias. Thus, it is critical to utilize different sources with different points of view. If a person simply finds a point of view that supports their original perspective, they will not accurately analyze the person or situation. Instead, they will use the point of view to reinforce their original perspectives.

 

A simple example is a person applies for a job. They have an immediate negative reaction to interviewer. They just didn’t like her for some reason. And, they apply that negative reaction to the job itself. Now, if they leave and go talk to a friend who supports their opinion without any knowledge or they talk to someone who was fired from that business, they are only gaining support for their opinion.

 

If, however, they ask themselves why they had a negative reaction to the job and they are honest with themselves, they may realize that it was the interviewer. Then they can consider why they reacted to the interviewer. They can also seek a balanced set of input from people who have worked there to make a better assessment of the job.

 

It would be awful to turn down a job if the source of the issue was that the interviewer looked similar to the girl that stole your boyfriend in high school. That is exactly what can happen with misconnections.

 

Retraining The Brain

 

The first two steps in retraining the brain are to recognize the misconnection and to analyze it. Once that is complete, the next step in retraining the brain to make better connections is to have a keen awareness to when similar judgments are being made. The next step is for the person to take to retrain the brain is to immediately stop and ask, “Why do I feel this way?” They can follow that question with “Is my assessment really true?” An honest assessment of these questions is a move toward changing the judgments themselves.

 

Once a person does this for several things, they will find that questioning becomes habit. Thus, they will pay attention to the automatic connection, but they will also automatically assess if that connection is accurate. This will lead to a better judgment of that situation and will help retrain the brain for future situations.

 

Unique Perspective

In the first two articles in the Misconnection series, we explored misconnections that are created because of the illusion of a connection and as a result of our survival instincts. In this segment, we will discuss how our culture, experiences, beliefs, and values that make up each person’s unique perspective add to each person’s connections and misconnections.

 

Unique Perspective

 

Each person has a unique perspective that belongs to them and only them. The person’s  environment and culture in which they live combined with their experiences, underlying beliefs, and values create this perspective. All of these things come together and create a filter through which every piece of information they receive flows.

 

Thus, people never evaluate unfiltered information. By the time they consider the information, their filter has already tainted the information. Thus, people can have different perspectives on something as simple as a rock in the middle of a sidewalk.

 

A person who has had kids playing in their rocks repeatedly may assume a kid put the rock in the middle of the sidewalk because they had been playing there. Someone else may be angry because they assume someone put it there so that someone would trip on it. A person with a different experience, may assume it was kicked up off the street by a car. Meanwhile, the facts may be that someone accidentally kicked it there and didn’t realize it.

 

World Situation

 

People’s filters are very obvious in their perspectives on the current world situation. Some people believe that everyone should do as the authorities tell us. Meanwhile, other people feel that authorities have overstepped their bounds and have no right to tell people not to open their business, go to church, or hike in their favorite park. Yet, other people may feel frustrated because theybelieve the entire situation is overblown.  In their mind,  the measures are being taken are without merit.

 

In all these cases, each unique perspective arises from the person’s current experience, previous experiences, beliefs, values, and culture. For instance, a person who lives in an area where no cases of COVID-19 have been reported will not likely see the virus as a big threat.  However, a person who lives in New York City, where their have been many cases, likely feels more threatened by the virus.

 

Likewise, someone who has grown up working hard for every dollar and still finding it difficult to get ahead will have a different opinion that someone who was born rich. And, different factors influence the opinion of retirees.

 

The number of factors that go into a person’s filters that drive their perspective of a situation are endless. It would be impossible to explore all of them. So, let’s take a look at a subset of the factors relating to whether a person should wear a mask.

 

To Mask

 

People hold a variety of  perspectives on whether people should wear a mask when in public. Some people simply believe everyone should follow the rules. In their opinion, since the authorities stated that masks are necessary, they are necessary. This belief may come from their local culture, family values, or religious upbringing.

 

Other people have different reasons for  believing that people should wear masks. Perhaps they are particularly nervous about themselves or a loved one getting sick. Others may have lost a loved one to COVID-19 or a similar disease. Still, others may have anxiety that has heightened due to the virus.

 

Or Not To Mask

 

Like people who feel a mask is necessary, those that desire not to wear a mask do so for many reasons. Often these people do not personally know anyone who has gotten COVID-19. Alternately, they have known many people with mild cases. They also may see getting the virus as unavoidable and wish to get it over with sooner rather than later.

 

The decision not to mask may also relate to cultural norms. Some cultures may frown upon face coverings. Alternately, people may believe face coverings  have a particular meaning. For instance, a person might hesitate to wear a face covering if they grew up being told that was an indication of criminal behavior.

 

There are other very different reasons that people don’t wear masks. The person may have PTSD, claustrophobia, or have a breathing disorder. The person may also have impaired hearing making it difficult to communicate when other people are wearing masks. All of these may present in a person without it being obvious to other people.

 

Misconnections

 

Misconnections arise when people believe everyone should make the same decision they made. I know people who have been on the receiving end of a tirade because they were wearing a mask. One might ask, “Why do you care?” Well, it is hard to determine why they care without a direct conversation. However, it is likely that the person is judging the other person based on their filters.

 

On the flip side, it is common to observe people yelling at a person for not wearing a mask. You might argue that the person has a right to be upset and that they have the good of themselves and others in mind. However, it is important to remember that they don’t know the other person’s situation, history, or experiences.

 

In both cases, the person doing the yelling is judging the other person based on their own rules. Thus, it is very possible that they are creating misconnections about the other person. They may believe the other person is uneducated, uncaring, or out of touch. However, both may be educated and caring. They just have different filters they apply in processing the information they receive.

 

Up next, our concluding article in the Misconnection series. . . We will discuss retraining the brain to make more good connections and less misconnections.

 

Survival Instincts

Welcome to the second installment of Misconnections. In the previous article, we discussed Connection Illusions – connections where none really exists. In this article, we continue to look as incorrect connections the mind makes.  This time we focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the connections our survival instincts make.

 

Survival Instincts

 

Most dictionaries define survival instincts as knowing what to do in a dangerous situation.  In our definition, survival instincts are the ability to quickly identify and react to dangerous situations. The survival equation often leaves out the identification of danger.  Some people mention it and refer to it as danger intuition.  However, often discussion of survival instincts focuses on fight or flight after fear is felt.

 

Danger

 

The reality is that identification of danger is the first step in ensuring survival. Some of the things that present danger are learned. Parents tell you not to touch the fire, to stay away from cliffs, and not to approach wild animals. Yet, presented with a new situation, humans instantaneously decide if the situation is dangerous or not.

 

Humans make these decisions based on past experiences during the person’s life and on things that kick in instinctively. Looking back in time, if a person had eaten strawberries previously and they caused them no harm, they assumed strawberries were safe when they encounter them again. Likewise, if they knew a person was of their village, they felt safe as they approached.

 

On the flip side, if a person knew some berries had made themselves or others sick, they would react with caution when the saw similar berries. Likewise, they would run back to their home village if they encountered someone unfamiliar.  That person might be a friend or a foe. Survival instincts told them to flee because waiting to find out if the person friendly could be deadly.

 

Perceived Danger

 

Over time, people became very efficient at looking for things that were out of place, were different, or were associated with previously identified threats. Thus, snap decisions were made about whether a food, place, or person was safe.

 

The mind, however, does not know the difference between a real danger and something that is simply meets the criteria of potential danger. Thus, it assumes that anything that meets the criteria for possibly being dangerous is dangerous.

 

The Danger Connection

 

This results in a connection in the mind between this new thing and danger even if it is not in fact a danger. Thus, a tasty non-poisonous berry may become identified as a danger in people’s mind. Likewise, a person from outside the neighborhood may be seen as a danger simply because they don’t appear to belong. Most generally, this isn’t the case. However, there remains some validity to the phrase “stranger danger” that we teach children.

 

It would be more accurate if the human mind categorized things in three categories: known to be safe, known to be a danger, and unknown. However, for safety and survival, people with well-developed survival instincts will see things as safe or danger. Their minds define safe things with an abundance of caution.

 

Not all people have the same level of survival instincts or intuition about danger. In some cases, the person’s mind will respond with the assumption of safety over danger. In this case, the person assumes that the berry or the stranger is safe by default.

 

Which is Best?

 

We could debate the value of strong danger intuition and survival instincts as opposed to a mind that believes more strongly that the unknowns are safe. The fact is that both of these perspectives result in misconnections. In one case, connections are made between people, places, and things and danger when that is not always true. Meanwhile, in the other case, the connection is made to the person, place, or thing being safe when there are situations where that is not true.

 

Thus, no matter whether a person has a tendency to assume things that are unknown are danger or a tendency to assume things that are unknown are safe, they will be right in some cases and wrong in others. This leads to misconnections that become a part of the history that the brain uses to analyze new “threats.” Thus, continuing to compound the problem.

 

In the next installment of Misconnected, we will discuss how our beliefs, culture, and environment create misconnections.

connection illusion

Humans initially made connections between people, places, things, and events as a matter of survival. Over time those connections have helped people to not only survive, but also thrive. However, not all connections are accurate.  Once these incorrect connections have been made, they are often difficult to change. In the first article of our series on Misconnections, we will explore The Connection Illusion.

 

The Misconnection

 

Since humans make millions of connections per day, inaccurate associations are inevitable. Those mistaken connections occur for various reasons. Some of them occur because survival instincts kick in. Other times, we make misconnections because of previous misconceptions or instilled beliefs. Meanwhile, other mistakes occur because of the illusions that two or more things are connected when in reality they are not.

 

This series explores each of these types of misconnections. It also explores how these misconnections are reinforced. The series will conclude with a look at how we can retrain our brain to make better, more accurate connections.

 

The Illusion

 

We are all familiar with illusions that a magician performs on stage. Magicians use techniques to distract the the audience. While the audience is paying attention to one thing, the magician performs tthe movement necessary to complete the trick.

 

Connection illusions work in a similar way. Emotion or physical reaction distracts the mind and suddenly a new connection is made where none actually exists.

 

No More Cake

 

A connection illusion sometimes occurs when a person catches a stomach bug. Often when this occurs, the last things the person ate before becoming ill no longer appeals to the person. So, if the person ate carrot cake before coming down with the virus, they may no longer desire to it eat. Even if carrot cake was previously their favorite, they may turn up their nose at it for weeks, months, or even years.

 

The carrot cake did not make the person sick. Perhaps the whole family got sick.  And, no one else ate carrot cake. The person’s logical mind knows the cake is not at fault. However, they made a connection between cake and feeling unwell. Once made, the person may need to put in a good deal of time and effort to break this connection.

 

London No More

 

Some connections based on illusions are even more indirect. In these cases, a person’s mind creates a connection between two events that happen concurrently although there is no direct relationship between the events.

 

For instance, if a person is on a trip to London when their grandmother dies. That person may associate sadness with London and not desire to go there again. Some might even have a belief that if they go there someone will die. Others can covert this to a connection that travel has negative consequences. This may sound ridiculous and for some people, they would not make this connection. However, they may make misconnections in a different circumstance.

 

Don’t Mess With My Ritual

 

Misconnections can drive people to have rituals and beliefs that have no scientific foundation or logical basis. For instance, athletes are known for their pre-competition rituals. Many athletes must eat particular things at particular times, listen to particular music, wear a certain pair of socks, etc. Although some foods or the right mindset can enhance performance, often these rituals seem absurd to the outsider.

 

The TV show Reba demonstrated this phenomenon in an episode where she held the team dinner at her house. There was an entire set of rules of how the dinner was to be held, including the specific brand of potato salad to purchase. Inadvertently, the wrong brand was purchased and everything was fine until the team found out. The team then became convinced that they would lose. Reba arrives at half-time and saves the day by bringing the right brand of potato salad or so the team believes. In actuality she simply changed the label on the container to make them believe it was the “winning” brand.

 

Although this episode of Reba is a comic dramatization of the importance of rituals on the mind, a person can definitely believe consciously and unconsciously that they are doomed to lose if their ritual is not followed.

 

Results of Connection Illusions

 

Connection illusions can result in many rituals, phobias, and biases. In situations where there is some level of connection, the illusion is often of a much greater connection than actually exists.

 

Up next: Survival Instincts and Misconnections