No, dear reader, this will not be a “men are evil”, “straights are evil”, “white people are evil,” “group x is evil”, or any other sort of rant post. Some people in those groups probably are problematic, but so are people of other groups.
I’m also not ranting against those positions (actually I’m not ranting at all…). It’s true that there are many people who take the “XYZ is evil” position that are afflicted with toxic levels of stupid. But, railing against them isn’t my point.
Today’s message is more general. It touches people on all sides of every issue: be aware of your own biases before you spout off (or any form of communication) and be aware of the biases of those you’re drawing information from (even if they’re on your side).
Fans of Star Wars know things can look one way, and be true (sort of…), from a certain point of view. Those same things can look, feel, and be very different from another point of view. Well, we all have our own interests and perspective. Unless we put forth effort to look at something from an alternate perspective, we’re always going to see things from our position. Without effort, we are always going to evaluate information from our personal “certain point of view”. And that, dear reader, is known as a bias. We’ve all got them.
If we were writing about fiction this week, I’d tell you that as a writer you need to understand the biases of your main characters (good and bad) and probably those of your other significant characters as well.
Since we’re talking about non-fiction, our job is easier. We don’t have fictional people with fictional biases to worry about. But we have our own. And our audiences’ biases. And the biases of any sources or researchers we’re drawing from. Not knowing what these biases are can lead to making wrong conclusions and (probably worse!) not connecting with our readers.
I’m not saying you have to find perfect, unbiased sources. I’m not saying you have to ignore your biases and embrace the other person’s position. But, if you want to connect with readers and understand what’s actually happening in situations, you need to understand the biases in play and why people can, and do, see things differently.
Once you know what and where the biases are, you can work past them and achieve your goals.
This isn’t the first post on biases ever. It won’t be the last. But, anyone, anywhere, who asks “why do I see things this way”; also asks “why does the other person see things differently”; and then honestly looks for an answer will progress farther and achieve more than those who wallow in their own opinions, even when those opinions are correct.
What are your biases, dear reader? What are the biases of the people you’re trying to reach? How can we get around those biases to make the good things happen?
Good luck with your answers. I’ll see you next post.