Bias and Relief from Repetitive Arguments

Even with the skills of Mindful Compassionate Dialogue (MCD) you can find yourself returning to what seems like the same kind of argument again and again. Driving these arguments is often a strong bias about how to approach any given situation or decision.

As you work through a particular situation using MCD, you ideally gain an understanding of and respect for the other person’s experience—and they yours. This shared understanding allows for creative requests and agreements. Each time you do this successfully, your trust in the process grows as well as your own capacity for flexibility in making agreements.

Without a larger perspective though, you may become impatient and long for growth as you find yourself in a new dialogue that has different content but somehow seems the same as the last one. In this case, it is helpful to zoom out and consider the biases that each person is bringing.

For our purposes, a bias is defined as a habitual way of focusing attention and making interpretations. For example, your bias may be focusing attention on what’s most practical and interpreting events through this lens. The other person may have a bias toward focusing on what’s most creative and interpreting events through that lens. If you are attached to and unaware of your bias, you may dismiss another’s view and push for your own in subtle or obvious ways. This pushing lands for the other person as a rejection of their experience. Tension rises and leads to an argument about even the most mundane of topics.

When you become aware of your own bias you can make space for another perspective without abandoning your own. This enhances your MCD dialogue by allowing you to land more fully in your understanding and respect for the other’s needs. For example, understanding that the other person has a bias toward creativity you might set aside your move toward the practical and simply muse with them about what’s possible first. You might spend more time just enjoying all the creative ideas they have. And you might more easily be able to connect to their needs if you are not jumping to practicalities about how to meet them. When you want to talk practicalities, you could explicitly ask if they are ready to shift the focus.

With this collaborative and conscious shift in focus, the other person is more ready to hear your perspective and honor your needs. As you make space for each other’s biases, these biases can become sources of contribution rather than conflict.

Practice

Take a moment now to name what you tend to favor or have a bias toward across multiple types of situations. Identify at least one example in which your bias blocked your ability to consider another’s perspective and honor their needs.