“If you look at someone who does not handle life well, it is often because he always thinks, feels, or acts in only one way and would never consider the opposite.”
-Al Siebert, The Survivor Personality
In previous installments of Polyamory Toolbox, we covered:
- Good Roommate Standard. A self-check for those with nesting partners where you can ask yourself either “Am I being a good roommate to my partner by doing this?” OR “Is this behavior I’d tolerate from a roommate?”
- Wearing the Friend Hat. A technique for figuring out how to act in metamour situations where you ask yourself “What would I do if we weren’t sharing a lover but a best friend?”
It’s Important to Use the Right Tool for the Job
Today’s technique is even more simple — and arguably has even more uses. That’s because it’s not a tool per se but an entire tool management system.
Because it’s not enough just to have a well-stocked toolbox. One of the most crucial aspects in effective Do It Yourself is using the right tool for the job.
It’s extremely common for people to stick to the tool they feel the most comfortable with, instead of the one that is most appropriate. People often to try to attack vastly different problems the same exact way.
There’s a common saying that applies here: When you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Confirmation Bias and You
This tendency to gravitate towards what we know and are comfortable with isn’t some kind of personal failing. It’s a standard part of how humans operate. We tend to interpret new evidence as confirming our preexisting beliefs. And we often ignore information that would contradict them. Scientists call this confirmation bias.
And when left unchecked, the results can be rather disastrous, especially when struggling with jealousy or insecurity. We can start to only see signs that confirm our worst fears and ignore more compelling and quite reassuring evidence.
Additionally, when trying to solve problems in a relationship system, we can get so wrapped up in our own viewpoint that we can completely fail to consider other people’s. Considering only your own concerns and ignoring those of your partners and metamours can also be quite a dangerous pitfall and lead to unsatisfactory outcomes.
Given all of this, it’s important to check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Ask Yourself “What Am I Not Seeing?”
Thankfully, today’s technique is ridiculously simple. Whenever you’re trying to troubleshoot, take a second after you’ve laid out your observations and ask yourself, “What am I not seeing?”
Search for evidence that would disprove your working theories.
Don’t just go with your first gut feel. Mentally argue with yourself.
And in doing so, examine ways you may have slipped up the rungs of the Ladder of Inference:
- Am I considering all the facts? What are some things that I didn’t consider that I should?
- What assumptions am I making? Are these assumptions reality based?
- What beliefs are guiding me through this decision-making process? Are these beliefs well founded? Why or why not?
- What data have I decided to focus on and why? What data have I ignored?
“The observing, perceptual person experiences the world with a silent mind. She is open-minded or, if you will, open-brained and absorbs information about how things work just for the sake of knowing. Then if a problem develops and a solution is needed, she has a wide range of information to draw on.
On the other hand, the judgmental style is revealed in such statements as ‘Don’t bother me with facts; my mind is already made up.’ People with this style react emotionally and judge others and situations quickly. Hasty judgments shut the mind to information that could contradict their prejudgments, or prejudices. Psychologists describe this mental reaction as ‘premature perceptual closure.’ It’s a kind of thinking incompatible with creativity. You cannot hope to be creative if facts, details, and information are never absorbed in the first place.”
-Al Siebert, The Survivor Personality
(Sadly, there’s no Viagra-style solution for premature perceptual closure…yet.)
For more reframes and tools to maintain healthy relationships of all kinds, please see Dealing with Difficult Metamours, a guide to troubleshooting challenging polyamorous dynamics as well as guidance on how to not create them in the first place.