In the book I am reading now, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini, I found the following passage: “…Once we have made up our minds about an issue, stubborn consistency allows us a very appealing luxury: We really don’t have to think hard about the issue anymore. We don’t have to sift through the blizzard of information we encounter every day to identify relevant facts; we don’t have to expend the mental energy to weigh the pros and cons; we don’t have to make any further tough decisions.”
Do you recognize it? We call it sometimes “first impression”, sometimes “prejudice”. Once we have set our internal automated response mechanism, we stick to it. It is a mechanism which in certain situations saves us a lot of energy and time – when buying groceries, for example. Instead of choosing your favourite kind of cheese every day, going through decision process, you automatically pick the one you liked last time. If you want to, just test this – simply make a note of your purchases every time you make them and see how many items are the same as last time. Then note the time shopping takes and after that consciously try to pick other brands, making sure that you picked something you may like, not something just for sake of being different. I bet that you will be in that store much, much longer.
But shopping is not the subject I wanted to talk about. I wanted to draw your attention to the fact that many people, especially busy professionals such as managers or directors, tend to follow their mental stubborn consistency and it is difficult, if not impossible, to convince them to a different view. This applies to people they have made their minds about, subject they made decision about, etc. Although people have changed, they do not notice it – as it would require again time and difficult thought process. Although conditions for already made decision have changed, they do not change their position – again, because it would take time and energy to analyse the same issue again. If you ever wondered why things like that happen, now you know why – they have programmed themselves. A very dangerous situation in many instances, especially that we do praise consistency as one of the character traits a good boss should have.
Is there a cure? Possibly. But whatever it is, its application is very difficult. Just try to convince your boss that whatever he decided, is not good – he will not listen to your argument. Cialdini even says, that in such cases clear, logical argument enforces already made decision, even if it is downright stupid. Why? Because this, again, saves people from re-thinking an issue.