Objectivity is one of those traits we all like to think we have. After all, the best course of action in any given situation is to consider the facts and circumstances, and then arrive at the best possible decision. Easy right?
Not so much. The reality is we all have biases; have you ever been in a conversation where the other person said something like, “Let’s look at this in another way. If you stand back and look at the problem objectively, it seems less important?” Taking an objective stance has a calming effect, helping people to see things as they really are or from a different viewpoint.
Objectivity works in two ways. First, it helps to remove emotion, allowing people to think more rationally. The other use of objectivity is that it provides neutral territory that allows an equitable discussion to take place.
When we say ‘be objective’ we typically mean a number of things:
- Be unemotional, not getting agitated or distressed in anyway.
- See things as they really are, not from a personally biased viewpoint.
- Be neutral, understanding both points of view.
Being objective is hard. While we have some experience managing the tension between emotional and rational arguments, we are rarely detached from the situation at hand. More often than we think we judge and make decisions based on our intuitions and affected by our biases. We like to believe that we are always rational, but we really should know better. Most often, we unconsciously backwards-rationalize our not-so-rational decisions.
Ways to try and be objective
Nobody is a complete mess or totally a star. Be clear and concise when presenting the information. Be polite, but firm when refuting. Listen, and recognize when you are wrong.
If you need to refer to anything negative, refer to the facts and not the person. And do it as you would if the person responsible was sitting in front of you.
Pros and cons lists are an old standby, but they’re still a worthwhile pursuit. Take each option in your decision and make two lists for each; on one side, you’ll have all the benefits of an option and on the other, you’ll have all the downsides. Try to give your list a sense of scale, this can help you think through all the positives and negatives of all your options, and help you visualize the generally best option.
Make a decision and live with It. Ultimately, no matter how much you pore over a decision or think about all the possible consequences, a decision will have to be made. There’s no avoiding it. Don’t delay making a decision just because you can’t come down easily on one side or the other. Instead, make a decision and hold firm to that decision. You can deal with any consequences of that decision as they arise later. In most cases, making a bad decision is still a lot better than making no decision at all. Making your decisions more objective is a worthwhile endeavor. Even if your decision doesn’t pan out the way you intended, you can at least rest assured that you made the best possible decision under the circumstances.
By: Umaru Maryam Hadejia