I’ve written on a number of occasions about the importance of objectivity and fact-based decision-making. In managing your business, it’s critical that you make decisions based, as much as possible, on the evidence. Intuition certainly has its place in decision-making, but it has to be appropriate – somewhere between the facts and the fantasy.

Most people believe they are capable of complete and total objectivity. If you’re one of those people, I’m sorry to disappoint you with what follows.

Objectivity is informed by a flexible world-view. I believe that by mid-life, many people’s world-views have become hard-wired and inflexible. For most of us at any rate, recognizing and accepting the desire or need to challenge our preconceptions is excruciating.

My purpose here is to briefly examine how one develops psychic schlerosis (hardening of the attitudes) and to recommend a few actions you can take to improve your level of objectivity.

How it Happens

Here’s how the “hardening” process gets started, matures and then gets in our way: The learning we receive in our youth is essentially written on a blank slate; that’s why early childhood development is the most profound. Kenneth Boulding from Michigan State University called this our “image.” The earliest experiences become the foundation upon which later experiences build. As life progresses, in an effort to bring order to chaos, our minds have an increasing tendency to automatically edit out information and experiences that do not conform to our preconceptions. As we get older, this inclination becomes stronger and more insidious, because it happens subconsciously and automatically.

Cut to adulthood. That evaluation and editing process – the voice in our heads – goes on constantly. Virtually all of us hear the voice. It comments, assesses, speculates, judges, compares, contrasts, complains, rehearses and worries. It interprets input within the context of our personal image. To each of us our own image is factual, so when we are confronted with an opposing perspective, we view it as wrong. We cling to our own view point in a futile attempt to impose order and control and to ensure predictability and certainty in our lives.

Rewiring Your Perspective

Significant personal growth requires a regular confrontation with what I call the brutal truth. In the case of developing more objectivity, that includes:

• becoming aware that most often, unfortunately, we do not control our minds; our minds control us.

• accepting that we generally take action based upon our feelings, which evolve out of the compression of our perspective with the facts.

• examining our thinking as onlookers and evaluating our feelings and reactions in light of the facts.

• habitually and continuously short-circuiting our automatic responses and then, after honest assessment, producing more productive responses.

Approaches and tools are available to help us move closer to objectivity. It takes practice and patience. We have been conditioned to seek answers and cures that require little time and a minimum of effort or personal investment, so what I propose is a modest and manageable starting point.

When you are in a meeting listening to an interaction, draw a line down the center of a piece of paper. Over the left column write, “What was said.” Over the right column write, “My initial reaction to what was said.” During the meeting, jot down a few of the comments made by others (especially those that irritate you) and your mental reactions, precisely. At the end of the meeting, review each of the comments in the right column and ask yourself the following questions:

• Was my reaction based upon facts? If not:

• What was the source of my reaction? Could it be my personal beliefs?

• Could I have reached another, plausible conclusion? What is it?

• What other incidents in my personal and business life have compelled feelings that grow from beliefs that may not comport with the facts?

For one month, every time you get frustrated or lose your temper, go through the process of documenting what went on in your mind to stimulate your response. Over time, begin to short-circuit your automatic responses.

The implications of this stimulus/response work are profound: better personal and business decisions, fewer impulse control problems and potentially better emotional and organizational health.

Copyright 2012 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit http://www.randgolletz.com