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2020 was seminal!

I learnt more about humanity in 2020 alone, than I had known hitherto.

Here is just one of my learnings; the most powerful driver of behaviour are cognitive heuristics. Essentially cognitive heuristics are a shorthand or a set of rudimentary rules for how we make meaning of the world around us. These are developed through socialization and significant experiences in life.

What 2020 demonstrated was the extent to which our cognitive heuristics can severely distort the meaning of the world around completely unbeknownst to us. In other words, our heuristics, like a computer operating system, can completely take over our thinking capabilities. The problem with this is that heuristics should only function frontline processing and are not supposed to replace our critical thinking faculty. They are only useful for spur of the moment meaning making, not long-term worldview formation and decision making. Once they do, we become totally enslaved to them.

So here is the thing, there are hugely influential companies and individuals in our world systems, who have over time monopolized the development and dissemination of knowledge, doctrines, or rules on how we should make meaning, such that many well-intentioned people are entirely subsumed by these and cannot experience any reality other than what these heuristics dictate. This is why increasingly facts, evidence or even logical frameworks are losing their persuasion powers.

So, what does this all mean? You want to persuade someone, forget about facts and figures; rather invest time in appreciating their heuristics. Engage them with such dignity and love and acceptance. Such experiences will most likely defy most heuristics out there. This contradiction will shift them is some form of dissonance; this is the best state to then challenge their heuristics.

Over the holiday I have been experimenting with this with a few people whom I knew well, but somehow, we had drifted apart due to our theological differences. Last week one of them dropped me an unsolicited note apologising to me how self-centred he had grown in the past few years. I suspect the note was not sent only to me.

Here is the bottom line, pay the highest regard to everyone, especially those that rub you the wrong way; treat all with dignity and love. Love and dignity have a way to surface fault lines in heuristics.

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