Observing without Judgement II: The Worldview Filter

October 11, 2018
October 11, 2018 Joe Britto

Welcome back to our three part blog on observing without judgment. In case you missed blog 1 you can find it here. If you’ve got that blog under your belt, let’s move on with blog 2.

The Worldview Filter

The thing that makes observing without judgment tough is that often we don’t recognize that we’re observing with judgment. In fact I’d suggest we observe with judgment most of our lives. It’s the thing we do when we hear an idea or point of view. Because 9.9 times out of 10, I’m going to suggest we filter that incoming information through the system of our own ideas, beliefs, values, and hopes. Our worldview in other words.

Think about that. What I’m saying is this: whenever we hear something it has to pass through our worldview before we can judge its worth. And just like water running down a mountain to the ocean, at each stage, that piece of information picks up the sediment of our ideas, beliefs, values, and hopes so that by the time it passes through all that we’ve already formed a judgment. And what will that judgment be?

Worldview Filter & Decisions

That’s an easier question to answer than you might think. Regardless of what the information is, the judgment will be this: if it echoes our worldview, we agree. If it doesn’t we don’t.

That’s a great way to filter the world around us if our worldview is an accurate reflection of the world around us. And of course, most of us feel our worldview is; not just right, but the truth. So why wouldn’t we make judgments based on that worldview?

And there’s the rub. What if your worldview isn’t an accurate reflection of the world? What if, in fact your worldview is made up of a coalition of your biases, preferences, prejudices, and hopes for how things could or should be?

And while you’re mulling that over, I’ll drop a spoiler. It is.

I’m not saying that’s always a bad thing. Martin Luther King Jr. saw injustice. It didn’t fit in his worldview so he dedicated his life to bringing justice to the lives of blacks in the segregated South. And most people applaud him for that because his willingness to observe with judgment left the lives of many people immeasurably better.

And then there’re people whose worldview might be hate-filled, angry and violent. And most people deplore that because any actions those people take will leave the lives of many worse off.

Then there’re the vast majority of us whose worldviews lead us to neither toxic acts or guide us to liberate the world.

Worldview in the Middle Ground

Most of us live in a middle ground so familiar it’s easy to forget that our decisions and judgments aren’t unbiased. We miss that because our worldview is moderate, widely accepted, and comfortable. So if we make decisions based on that worldview, though it may annoy some people, though some may disagree, we accept that because after all, we’re the leader and the choices leaders make aren’t always popular.

Because we think that’s true, we don’t stop to question our worldview. And we don’t stop to do that for the simple reason that our decision fits perfectly well with our worldview. Which is another way of saying it feels right. And who’s going to argue with right?

But here’s the thing. That logic only follows if our worldview is right.

The whole point of observing without judgment is acknowledging that there is no way to know if our worldview is right.

The Multiverse of Worldviews

So in the multiverse of worldviews how we do know which worldview is the right one? And that’s the point of all of this: we can’t.

The information we have as leaders will always be incomplete. That’s both the joy and the challenge of being a leader. Anyone can lead when they have a complete picture. Our job is to lead in the gray and hazy world of incomplete and contradictory information.

That’s why observing without judgment is so important. It keeps us open to all information, even the information that challenges how we see the world and what we think is possible.

Next time we’ll think about how we can spot when our worldview getting in the way. And what we can do to lead effectively when it does.


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