Heath Bros – Attaining Distance

This is the 7th of our ten part series on decision making based on the Heath Bros book “Decisive”. Step by step we have been checking out the Heath Bros. “WRAP” process. First to Widen our options. Then to reality test options that we have (overcome bias). Now we move on to a the third big problem that we face – overcoming short term emotion by Attaining distance.

Consider this statement

The art of car sales (is) to get customers to stop thinking and start feeling.

That means clever sales people reinforce what the potential customer already likes rather than telling them what to like. If a customer lingers over a car, the salesman might say “It’s a real beauty, isn’t it?” When things heat up, the salesman may pause to check if that particular car is still available and then with a dramatic “Yes! Great news! We still have one left!” All of the effort goes into pumping up short term emotion. To get the buyer into the grip of passion so that he or she lets go of their better judgment. It is the art of seduction.

If this is the trick — and it is a good one — how do we avoid it?

First we might consider why it works. We are all subject to two separate biases that cause trouble. The first is a bias towards familiarity (we like what we know and distrust what seems foreign). Second is a bias to avoid loss. Research shows that our curiosity is easily overcome by fear of losing something valuable. So we fight like tigers to keep what we know, especially when we are about to lose it, even if it sucks. Oops!

To get beyond this, we need to attain distance. The simplest way is just to step back in space or time. Sleeping on tough decisions is always a good idea. Alarm bells should go off when you feel your emotions stoked up.

Another way to achieve this is to put your decision on a “10/10/10 scale”. This involves 3 questions.

1. How will you feel about this in 10 minutes?
2. How will you feel about this in 10 months?
3. How will you feel about this in 10 years?

Just asking these questions can helps you see the absurdity of short term emotional pressures.

And here is another tool — psychologists have found that we are better at giving advice to others about their problems than fixing our own. So you can ask yourself, “If this were my best friend’s problem, what would I advise him or her to do?” Or in a business management context, this one “What would my successors do?”Or this one “What would my kids think about this when they are grown up?”

Gaining distance allows us to see the forest from the trees. It all sounds simple enough. But can we do it? Well, it gets easier if we can keep track of our core priorities. That’s next!



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