I was in the U.S. to take a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner's course in October 2008. You'll recall that this was when Barack Obama and John McCain were vigorously vying for that position of POTUS.
One of my classmates suggested that we practice our newly-learned skills by watching a debate between the presidential hopefuls by turning off the volume and looking at the display of non-verbal clues.
It became clear that these were McCain supporters. They were looking for and finding reasons why McCain was the better candidate, based upon eye movement and mannerisms.
I didn't say much, but decided to go back to my room and make my own observations. As I didn't have the same attachment and interest in the election results as my classmates did, my observations differed considerably from those who were keen on the outcome.
Deletion and distortion
Deletion and distortion are two concepts that we learned about in NLP.
Have you ever ignored incoming information at the expense of what you were working on? You may have filtered out or deleted that which you determined is unimportant or insignificant.
We may distort information in order to make ourselves right or to prove a point. It is so subtle that we are often unaware of it taking place. We find justification for our beliefs - we find what we are looking for. Just like my classmates who were looking for confirmation of their beliefs of who would make the better president.
This simple exercise proved that even though we think we are objective, it is difficult to leave our thoughts and emotions out of the equation.
"...we are awash in social signals, and any social science that treats individuals as discrete decision-making creatures is nonsense." - David Brooks in The Young and the Neuro published in the New York Times
It goes on to say that we divide people into groups - in or out - in as little as 170 milliseconds. However, by teaching people to become aware that this is occurring, change can take place.
Working with what you do
Awareness and the willingness to accept that we do have biases, then pausing to hover over those opinions and decisions to evaluate whether they are true or relevant, are skills that can be learned and practiced.
Fear can cause us to hold on to beliefs long after they no longer serve us or new and better information has been attained.
Are you prepared to pay the price for stress? How is your health? Relationships? Sleep?
Do you remember what your life was like when you weren't so stressed?