What We Believe, We Believe

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You may not be aware of it it, but I run an online BLOG, or web log, for the Roundup. It's called "I'm Listening." It's fun, it lets me meet a lot of Rim Country folks online, and it keeps me current on what's happening.

And in an odd sort of way, it's also educational.

Here's an example of what I mean:

A while back we were talking about the roundabout at the northern end of Payson and I noticed something that got me thinking about a subject I hadn't thought about in decades.

Most people talked about the roundabout quite casually, discussing its good points and its bad points, listening to what others had to say about it, responding to them, and so on.

That wasn't unusual. That's the way things usually go.

What was unusual, though, was the number of people who were very emotional about the roundabout, but never said why. Some were bitterly opposed. Others thought it was great. But that was that. No reason given.

And did they get hostile if anyone pushed them to explain why they felt the way they did!

Of course you and I aren't like that. We think things out before we make up our minds, so we always know why we feel the way we do.

Or do we?

Would you mind if I asked you a question?

What's your favorite color? (Mine is blue.)

Can you explain why it's your favorite color?

Well, that's different, you say. It's a matter of taste, and taste can't be explained.

I can't argue with that, but I still have a question.

Why can't taste be explained?

There must be a reason why people love ice cream and hate broccoli. There's a reason for everything else. Why not for that?

I have read that there are reasons for such things, but they are usually buried so deep inside your skull and mine that it wouldn't be worth the time and effort to dig them out it.

Which brings me, to a course I taught for the Air Force, over in England, nearly 40 years ago, back in 1969 to be exact.

Making good decisions is an essential skill in the military. In a war, there's no "best two out of three." You either get it right the first time, or Goodbye, Charlie!

The course I was teaching involved logic and decision-making. In the first two classes I taught, I found it very hard to get people to admit that they sometimes made a decision based on nothing more a vague feeling that it was right.

And since I couldn't get them to admit that they might occasionally be wrong, I couldn't get them to search for ways to improve.

Highly frustrated, I looked around for an approach that might help, and after a while I came up with something.

In the next class, as we began our discussion, I asked each of the 20 students, a mix of officers and NCOs, what brand of car they drove and whether or not they liked that brand.

Not too surprisingly, except for one female officer who had bought a British car with a right hand drive she didn't like because she had to shift with the "wrong hand," the answer was a definite yes.

Then I asked them whether they had bought the car primarily because they liked that brand. Again, I got a definite yes.

Then came a question which was a bit trickier. I asked them to list 10 reasons why they preferred that brand, leaving out any reason that would be equally true of other brands.

They absolutely could not do it!

Now we had something to talk about. We spent hours pondering just what went on in their heads when they bought that car.

The result?

After they took a close look at how they sometimes made decisions, the entire class decided that there was room for improvement in their decision-making.

Mission accomplished! Or at least well started. Once they admitted to themselves that their decision-making had flaws in it, they were motivated to find ways to improve.

Which brings up a couple of interesting questions about you and me.

Why are there so many things we just plain like or dislike?

And should we perhaps try to change that?

Well-l-l. That's where the wicket gets a bit sticky.

The answer is -- you never would have guessed -- yes and no.

It's like the old story about the man who visited a doctor, cranked his neck into an awkward, twisted position, and said, "Doc my neck hurts every time I do this. How can I get it to quit?"

"Easy," the doctor told him. "Don't do it anymore. That'll be $75 dollars. Pay the receptionist."

Wouldn't it be nice if it were that simple?

But it's not.

From what I've read, the way to handle such things is quite sensible. If something is harming you in some way, you obviously should look into it.

But if it isn't ...

Hey! We're not computers. We don't have to think like one.

One tiny word of caution. Something I discovered back when I was teaching that course, and have seen over and over again on the BLOG.

It's OK to try to change someone's opinion about something. We do that every day. But don't get yourself into trouble trying to change how someone feels about something, even if it bugs the daylights out of you that there's no logical reason for that feeling.

All you're likely to do is to turn a friend into an enemy.

Who needs more enemies?

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