Truth is a team sport

When you need to base a choice on the truth, how do you find it? Most of us believe that we let real information - facts - drive our decision making. Some scientists suggest that we are much more likely to be moved by emotions and suggestions than we are by information. They make these claims as if it is possible to find facts, know the truth, and weigh different options objectively. This may be true in books or in laboratories. It is seldom true where you work or where you live.

What is more likely is that you often find yourself faced with choices where the truth is impossible to determine. We are bad at predicting the future, and yet we have to make decisions every day that depend on knowing how people will act and react before they have done either. This is true for coaches, teachers, sales people, and business leaders. It’s true for everyone who wants to shape the future and not just react to what has already happened.

So how do we do it? It’s clear that people make choices every day without having access to the right information, and somehow, most of those choices work out okay. Maybe there’s a way to work with the truth that doesn’t involve a logical organization of facts.

Think about a typical situation where you have to decide whether something represents a distraction or an opportunity. There’s no way to be sure: that’s why you have to think about how to make a choice. Your thinking will be coloured by the experience of people you know, by stories you have heard, and by your own past experiences. Your thinking is also coloured by what you know of the people around you and how they will respond to whatever you decide. Although the decision may be up to you, there is a whole team
 in your head weighing in on what might be useful.

So what pops up for you? It might be a strong feeling one way or another. Or it might be a feeling that you have to guess: that you won’t know until you try something. Whatever pops is not a factual representation of the situation you face, but it’s also not isolated from real experience. It’s more like an intuition how to put together everything you know about how to make such a decision. And it’s based on your real experience, and the real knowledge and experience of everyone whose thought has touched yours.

What drives your choice might not look like facts, but that might be because you expect a fact to be a singular point, the focus of a single point of view. Truth might not look like a distinct fact. It might look more like a composition that depends on dozens of points of view processing slightly different information. Think about the voices you are including in the advisory team that’s working in your head. Do they represent the best team you can put together to deal with the situation where you need to choose? If not, pick some better team-mates and then make your best guess.


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