I recently watched a focus group react to some concepts and after, colleagues shared conclusions that surprised me. I marveled at how our personal biases were shaping what we heard and saw. We don’t often consider this bias in our thinking, but we should because it leads to a better perspective. We realize we are applying our meaning to what people say or do which is not necessarily their meaning.
Understanding personal bias takes rigorous self-analysis. Some take self-assessment tests, others quietly reflect, yet more work with coaches or mentors. Whatever the approach, you still need to clarify your beliefs. Here’s one approach: Get a notebook, carve out some quiet time and write a stream of consciousness to the following questions.
- What is most important to me in my life, and why?
- What were some of the biggest choices I made in my life, and why did I make them?
- What do I consider to be my greatest accomplishments across my life, and why those?
- When do I find myself most angry/sad/happy/excited?
- What do I consider to be my biggest failures across my life, and why those?
- Whom do I most enjoy being around and why?
- Whom do I avoid and why?
- What am I most excited about in our society?
- What am I most concerned about in our society?
- What characteristics about myself do I most like? Dislike?
When done, circle words or phrases being repeated (mind maps are great for this), looking for patterns across it all.
Next, write what you believe about these themes. Start writing “I believe….” statements without overthinking it. Let’s say you saw a pattern around honesty or transparency. You might write “I believe that most people are honest and try to do the right thing.” Or you have a different belief and write “I believe most people lie to protect themselves, even if they don’t realize it.” There’s no right or wrong - only what you believe. Write as many as you can generate.
Reduce it further to a set of distinct words or phrases - your essence. Write until you have a natural pause or find yourself thinking too much. Consider these words and phrases your guidepost to learn how your brain is translating what people say or do. Ask yourself what they truly meant, question if you are judging based on a belief, or consider the view of someone who doesn’t share your values.
You will uncover deeper, more objective, and more meaningful insight. When you then share those with a prospect or client in a pitch - whether for an idea, a campaign, or new business - it will be clear you know the audience better than anyone. Your knowledge engenders confidence in your conclusions and advice, which leads to the result you desired - you win your pitch.