You agree with what you already believe

The other day my wife and I started watching the King Kong remake from 2005.  I say “started watching” because we didn’t actually finish it.  We couldn’t.  If you are a fan of the movie, I apologize, but it just didn’t work for us.  It just seemed to like it was trying too hard to be an over-the-top, grandiose cinematic masterpiece.

We thought we remembered it as a well received and well reviewed film, so I started looking back at some of the reviews to check my memory.  Then something interesting happened.  I found myself only wanting to read the ones that shared my point of view about how awful I thought this movie was.  I couldn’t stomach a single paragraph about how majestic and lovely this film was.  Because to me, it wasn’t.

Then it hit me: an essential human trait that stands in the way of TRUE communication: Too often, we will only agree with what we already believe.

Let that sink in.


If you believe that large corporations are evil, you will likely discount any accounts that paint them in a different light.

If you believe your boss is insincere, you will have a hard time accepting any sort of praise or feedback from him/her.

If you believe that Jessica Sanchez should have won American Idol, you might have a hard time seeing Phillip Phillips succeed.

What’s another way to put this?  Oh yeah, we may not be quite as open-minded as we think.

Watch or listen to any political debate where two or more people have opposing views.  Is anyone really listening, or are they just waiting for the other person to stop talking long enough to restate their position on the topic?  This is probably the basis behind the general rule that we shouldn’t talk about religion or politics at work.  All that non-listening can quickly create a volatile environment.

Taking politics and religion out of this, here is a situation that is a little closer to home.  It’s a situation that I sadly witnessed.

  • An employee was accused of stealing because of suspicious behavior and comments from other employees.  Another Supervisor thought he was a bad seed all along, so he was only too willing to see the (largely circumstantial) evidence against the employee. The Supervisor didn’t believe a word of the employee’s testimony in his own defense, nor did he bother to look at a shred of contradictory evidence.  The employee quit because he felt like the Supervisor was picking on him.

The Supervisor’s mind was not open to anything that would contradict what he already believed, and the employee suffered because of it.  I wish I could say this was a made-up scenario.

I also wish I could say that I made up the whole human tendency to be closed-minded, but I didn’t.  It took me watching a really bad movie to see just how this can manifest itself.

So here is your homework (which will be collected on Thursday during first period):

Examine what YOU might be closed-minded about.  What sort of things do you NOT want to hear contrary evidence about?  Then the big question… WHY?  Why do you have that belief… and what if it’s wrong?  What if you are wrong about big corporations, your boss, or Jessica Sanchez?

As a leader, we often have to hear things we don’t like or don’t agree with… even if it is coming from ourselves.

Thanks for reading!

About the author:  Matt Heller is no Dr. Phil, but he does have an astute curiosity about psychology and human behavior.  As a speaker, trainer, and leadership coach, Matt is fascinated by the process of uncovering exactly why people are motivated to do what they do.

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