Forcing Evidence to Fit Your Theory

I’m a Research Manager, and this means I’m well-versed in using data to prove or disprove a hypothesis.

Over the years, I’ve found the clients that are the hardest to work with are those who know what they want the research to say. They have a clear idea in their heads on what will be best for their company moving forward, and if the target audience are surveyed and it emerges that customers would like to see the company move in a different direction than planned, it can be hard to hear.

Clients are very accepting of results that match their perceptions; what tends to take up most of the discussion time are the results that contradict what they perceive to be true. We’ll often be asked to revisit the data and look at it from different angles to see if they can make a case for proceeding in the way they want.

It can be hard to get feedback that challenges what we think when we’re already invested in something, but we need to make sure we’re not seeking out evidence to back up our theories, and ignoring everything else that doesn’t fit the narrative we want. We must make sure we’re not going through life only acknowledging the evidence that justifies our viewpoint and discounting anything to the contrary.

Whether it’s something at work or in your personal life, I’m sure there will be examples you can think of where you’ve felt uncomfortable with the evidence put in front of you.

A key area where this can manifest is in our limiting beliefs. We have often believed something to be true for so long that we can’t possibly believe it could be any other way. An example in my life was when I was pushing myself to get better at delivering presentations. For so long, I identified as a shy and nervous person which was exacerbated when I was presenting. It took a long time to convince myself that that description didn’t have to stick with me for the rest of my life just because I had believed it to be true until now. I built up a plethora of new evidence as a I delivered more and more presentations, and we can all do this in other areas of our lives too. 

Is there evidence that something needs to change in your life that you’re ignoring? Are you only proactively looking for the evidence that allows you stay where you are?

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