When Your Nature Works Against You…

Life is full of contradictions. And, yes, sometimes we find them in ourselves. A recent post from Psychology Today points out one reason this may happen: confirmation bias.

As Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D., points out, many of us have gut reactions to people or situations that give us short-term relief from indecision. When those decisions are rooted in confirmation bias, it can lead to longer-term outcomes that are not the best for us.

According to his post, these immediate, knee-jerk reactions give us temporary relief from the stress of indecision, confusion or that “in-between feeling” we get when we think through what to do, think or believe about something or someone.

But, with further introspection — and the application of disconfirmation bias — these scenarios can play out much better for us in the long run. Why? The approach can help us avoid the stress that comes with taking a path that doesn’t fit the realities of what we’re facing — in personal life or in business.


In his post, Sherman brings up the concept of loyalty, and I think it’s really interesting — especially when you consider the relationships we have with others. If you pride yourself on loyalty, it may feel like a natural extension of “who you are” to remain loyal to people, jobs, brands or public figures you support, even when it’s hard to be…

I have experienced confirmation bias in business — applying myself to make a difference for former employers, supervisors and brands — when the time, work and energy would have been better spent scouting and securing a new job. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it’s good to recognize ways to avoid stressful outcomes in the future.

I can also see this clearly in the case of my former marriage. It wasn’t working, but I stuck with it. I tried to be flexible, forgiving and supportive. I went to therapy, and I did all the work I could think of to do because I was loyal to my spouse. I felt sure that I was doing all the right things because it was “who I am” to stand by the people I love.

Unfortunately, that was a one-sided equation. Many would argue that I wasted precious time there trying to help improve the situation, blaming myself when it didn’t and feeling utterly awful about it all because I invested so much in this and failed.

Had I recognized my confirmation bias in personal and business life, I might have spared myself a lot of time and stress. But, I also concede that, when you love someone or something, it may be natural to want to give them the benefit of the doubt… And, when you truly care about the brand you support professionally,  you want to feel like you made every effort before you cut your losses and leave.

Loyalty is only one example of many that can be related to confirmation bias. Sherman mentions enthusiasm, negativity and other semi-emotional responses that can stem from this bias. The common denominator is that the bias creates a short-term response (or many short-term responses) to a longer-term issue. In a way, it’s like trying to mend a serious wound with a band-aid. It’s not the solution that fits the problem or the cause of stress. And, it doesn’t solve the larger issue.

So, my point is this: Be kind to yourself. If something isn’t working, examine it from an alternative POV. Talk to someone you can trust — a family member, friend or counselor. Ask yourself, am I applying “who I am” to this situation in a way that’s healthy for me?

If you’re not sure, remember that you have options. Realize that your happiness is ultimately up to you. Know that achieving it is a lifelong path. And, understand that recognizing your own bias along this journey is one of many steps in the right direction.