Being objective…

Mid conversation with someone today and I was reminded about something I stumbled across recently. It’s called the ‘objectivity principle’.

I really rather like it.

For those not in the know it’s an Accountancy type thing. Basically it’s the idea that decisions should be made independently of biases and subjective methods. Instead they should be based on measurable assessments which can be supported by additional evidence.

The notion behind the principle is that when a business employs it two Accountants should come up with the same overall result when reviewing financial documentation.

I like it because by applying it you effectively remove the ambiguity from a situation. Ambiguity is something which I abhor at the best of times. That done there’s no uncertainty. Just cold, hard, honest to goodness factoids. And even better?  The objectivity principle can be applied to any situation. Not just bean counting style stuff.

When you think about it by taking an objective stance – dealing in data that is in no way subjective – you effectively diffuse a situation. By dealing in the facts you remove the emotion, which can only help teh relevant parties to see things rationally.

Objectivity is the polar opposite of subjectivity. Someone who has a subjective viewpoint only sees things from their own position, complete with their own biases, agendas and so on. The problem with a subjective point of view is that it is invariably different from everyone else’s subjective viewpoint.  You’d be hard pushed to find two subjective viewpoints that are identical right?

Removing the emotion from a situation is pivotal. Well it is for me anyway. Emotion clouds my judgement and invariably means I will make the wrong decision. The method I find best when dealing with situations like this is to imagine that it’s not me that’s dealing with it, but an impartial (and really rather calm, relaxed, measured etc.) third party. By taking a back seat and seeing it through someone else’s eyes this enables me to eliminate the emotion. At this point the rational version of Mel steps to the fore and I can view the situation objectively.

For me the big attraction of the objective viewpoint is that it is neutral territory, not just for me but for the other party involved. Additionally it pleases my over-arching need for fairness in any situation.

The neutrality of an objective view lets both parties assess the situation from the same bit of turf. And even better – if we (the royal we that is) cannot do this, then at least we can get someone else to do it.

In any conversation, discussion or relationship there are three positions:

  • The first position is me, my subjective self.
  • The second position is you, the other person, and your subjective viewpoint.
  • The third position is the objective viewpoint, a neutral observer watching the proceedings from outside.

The thing to remember is that anyone watching the conversation is, of course, in this third position. However either or both of the participants can also find this third position.

What I’ve learnt over the years is that when I’m being wound up or drawn into an argument to try and adopt the third position. To take the back seat, rather than driving the situation forward at a manic rate of knots with little heed being paid to the facts.

The objective viewpoint is more realistic, fairer and far more likely to be result in the right solution for all parties involved. Win win in my book…

2 thoughts on “Being objective…

  1. But passion is what makes us human – it’s what adds colour to an otherwise grey landscape. So it’s good to be aware of it as a thought process, and brilliant to be able to tap into it for sure, but be careful not to see it as anything more than just another way to approach something – I mean who’d want to live in a world full of accountants? 😉

    • Hens – I totally agree with you that passion is one of the emotions (joy, sorrow, fear and hate being some of the others that immediately spring to mind) that truly makes us feel alive. And you know me therefore you know how passionate I am about what I do.

      Our culture values self-expression. We are encouraged to be assertive, and this includes the ability to communicate our thoughts and feelings. Indeed these days expressing emotion in the workplace is no longer considered a taboo.

      Pragmatically, however, I would counter that in the workplace we cannot allow our emotions to ride rough shod over the truth.

      In this world of logic, facts and figures, emotions simmering inside people are gradually finding their way out in the corporate world, backed with all sorts of scientific reasoning.

      And that’s the important bit – the emotion is backed by robust data.

      When communicating my perspective on something at work I will always make sure I am in full possession of the facts – 99% success rate so far 🙂 – but that the facts will be expressed in a manner that is appropriate to me and who I am – e.g. passionately.

      That way I remain true to myself, I deal in fact and I stand a strong chance of winning my argument. Win win.

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