How Exploratory Thinking Will Lead You Beyond Your Confirmation Bias

In this post, I want to make you uncomfortable. My hope is by you allowing me to briefly do so, that I will challenge you to go beyond your “default mode” thinking and decision-making framework into a deeper, more reflective response to issues that are important to you and others. 

The uncomfortable part is that you are going to have to allow yourself to look at a particular issue, problem, or challenge from a new and different perspective. The challenge I see with this is that if you’re like me and most other people, you have naturally migrated to vetting ideas and expressing opinions with people who, think, believe, and vote just like you do. How vulnerable are you willing to be to venture over to the other side? In answering that question, you may be surprised how positive the results of all of your actions and interactions become.

Here, I am speaking personally. It is very easy for me to find people who look, think, and feel the same way about current events and issues that I do. In fact, I would argue that we have all enclosed ourselves within these camps and have and are becoming less and less open to considering an issue from the other side of the aisle, as it were. You can certainly maintain this stance and find plenty of people to support you.

Despite the attention that a few people receive in the media, I believe many, if not most of us have become completely conflict-averse. How many times have you kept quiet to “keep the peace?” I know there are some who are all too willing to assert their opinions but I believe most of us go to great lengths to avoid controversy. How many of you need to have a conversation with a friend or family member? How many of you work in an office where behaviors and/or actions that are in conflict with the company goals and values are not being addressed? My guess is we all have at least a couple of examples of where conflict is going unaddressed.

Now, to be clear, I am not encouraging that everyone engages in conflict and argues for argument’s sake. There’s enough of that going around on social media already. In fact, I am not really encouraging arguing at all. Rather, I am encouraging engaging, and listening to people that think and behave differently than you do. No, it won’t be comfortable or easy at first, but if done correctly, I am convinced it will be life-changing. If you are interested in diving deeper into this topic, I go into much more detail in my best-selling book, Mustard Seed Faith. You can get it in paperback or Kindle here. All proceeds from book sales are donated to charity.

Recently, I was encouraged by a speaker to consider utilizing exploratory thought over confirmatory thought. That was the genesis of this post. His exhortation to the group I was a part of that day was to go deeper in your thinking. His challenge to us, which I am passing along to you, is if all you are doing is confirming your beliefs (by talking to people who only agree with you), then you have learned nothing. 

By utilizing exploratory thought, there is a very good chance that your thinking and learning will be improved in at least three meaningful ways. First, you may get further confirmation of your existing beliefs. The important distinction, however, is that you now have more information to base your decision on and to back up your increasingly deeper convictions. Second, you have allowed for an exchange of ideas and information with someone with an opposing viewpoint. If done correctly and in a spirit of greater learning, Neither of you has in fact changed their mind on an issue, however, you have forged a relationship for continued discussion and learning from one another which may prove very valuable as you continue to grow.

Finally, you may actually change your point of view based on new information that you didn’t know existed heretofore.  That, my friends, will lead you to growth – mental growth for sure. Just as important, I believe you will experience emotional and relational growth that will challenge you to continue seeking opportunities for deeper learning. 

So there is your challenge for this week. Just like anything worth achieving, it’s simple, but it’s not easy. If you want to grow in any dimension of your life you’re going to have to embrace being uncomfortable. The uneasiness and even pain only last for a short time. The growth you get on the other side lasts for your entire lifetime. I can’t wait to hear the befits it brings to you!

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