Ep57: Certainty

32 minutes

Ep 57 – Certainty

Have you ever noticed a tendency to view things in a binary, all-or-nothing way? Does delegating frustrate you, because you worry someone else would just mess things up, so why not do it yourself? Do you “hate conflict”? In this episode of So Here’s My Story, let’s talk about exactly that, and the secret dial that just might work better than that switch you are currently using. 


Why is that important for business?

When we think about examples like delegation, one of the things that comes up is our perception that there are only two ways things can go: either we do it ourselves, or we somehow accept the inevitable subpar results of someone else doing it. There is an imagined binary switch that suggests we either must do it the way we are, with our high standards, or we let everything go to hell in hand basket.

Instead, we can look at it as a volume knob or a stereo equalizer. The ability to get things done at a high standard is a wonderful trait, and we don’t want to destroy that trait. But every trait has a nasty underbelly when it is dialed up too high; if we can turn the knob down a little, or use that trait in a different way, our options open up. 

In the example of delegation, it is also important to ask: Is it wrong because it is not the way I would have done it, or wrong because the outcome wouldn’t be realized?

If we can consider opening up the spectrum and imaging a stereo equalizer and finding balance instead of making a binary choice, solutions become more plentiful. But this goes against our nature to classify everything as binary. Humans have a bias towards certainty; what is compelling about the binary switch is the certainty involved. Unfortunately, that certainty leaves you with fewer options; yet even if neither binary option is useful, we are still drawn to imagine the world in that way.

A great example is confrontation, and people who “hate confrontation”. This means we are imagining confrontation as a light switch, assuming it is either off or completely on, in a ballistic missile kind of way. But the irony is that it is the not dealing with small confrontations that actually makes them build into these large scale confrontations that we are trying to avoid. If you can talk about little things while they are still little, and not step over them, then you can actually avoid the big confrontations. Making the invisible visible is how you prevent conflict, not avoiding it.

Leanne Davie?, who works with corporations on the subject of conflict, even suggests there should be more conflicts in organizations. In the absence of conflict, we settle for unappealing and middling solutions because we don’t talk them through. Avoiding conflict means you are accepting something else.

In all of these examples, it comes back to fear. Whatever the fear is – usually something to do with a fear of tarnishing our value – the person is using the best tools at their disposal to protect themselves from that thing, but those tools are not getting them what they want and often getting them the exact thing they are most afraid of.


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