How do you react when your world view is challenged?

WARNING: THIS POST MAY CAUSE YOU TO REACT STRONGLY – OR NOT. Please read the notes in blue before you read the main article.

This post is not about happiness, but it is about coaching. It is about noticing something about yourself — specifically, how do you react when you are confronted with something that really pushes your buttons?

I follow Seth Godin’s blog.  Seth is a prolific, creative, and in-your-face-highly-provocative thinker.  He challenges other’s perspectives.  He provokes and argues opposite angles.  I follow him because much of his work is in marketing, an area I study for my business.
A couple days ago, Seth published a piece that really challenged my thinking. When I followed the links to his data sources, I discovered some really vitriolic comments and a lot of fear and anger… not because of Seth, but because of the topic.   I had to read his post and the source articles several times to even absorb the message, because it is so wildly different from my world view and what I believe.
Because this is at the heart of real change. One the most significant obstacles to real change in human beings is that we believe stuff — and when our core beliefs are challenged, we tend to react by either ignoring new data that disproves our beliefs OR we vehemently argue against the new belief, to prove that we are right.
In my coaching, I help my clients step back and OBSERVE themselves, and notice their own beliefs and their behaviors and reactions. When you can observe yourself objectively, you become incredibly powerful at making new choices, considering new possibilities, or changing your behavior.  But first, you must NOTICE how you react and how you believe.
I invite you to read this post AS A COACHING EXERCISE.  If you are curious, follow the links to the Stats and the Images (below).  I do NOT advocate one point of view over another, but I ask the same question as Seth does:  How does this resonate with you?
Again, I am not making a statement — this is just a coaching exercise. See my questions at the end, in blue.

The triumph of coal marketing

Do you have an opinion about nuclear power? About the relative safety of one form of power over another? How did you come to this opinion?
Here are the stats, and here’s the image. A non-exaggerated but simple version of his data:
Chart comparing death rates per Thousand Kilowatt Hour
For every person killed by nuclear power generation, 4,000 die due to coal, adjusted for the same amount of power produced… You might very well have excellent reasons to argue for one form over another. Not the point of this post. The question is: did you know about this chart? How does it resonate with you?
Vivid is not the same as true. It’s far easier to amplify sudden and horrible outcomes than it is to talk about the slow, grinding reality of day to day strife. That’s just human nature. Not included in this chart are deaths due to global political instability involving oil fields, deaths from coastal flooding and deaths due to environmental impacts yet unmeasured, all of which skew it even more if you think about it.
This chart unsettles a lot of people, because there must be something wrong with it. Further proof of how easy it is to fear the unknown and accept what we’ve got.
I think that any time reality doesn’t match your expectations, it means that marketing was involved. Perhaps it was advertising, or perhaps deliberate story telling by an industry. Or perhaps it was just the stories we tell one another in our daily lives. It’s sort of amazing, even to me, how much marketing colors the way we see the world–our reaction (either way) to this chart is proof of it.
OK, end of Seth’s post.  Here are your questions:

  1. Were you able to OBSERVE your reaction, or were you subject to your reaction?
  2. Were you able to respect this point of view as a valid one (even if you disagree?) or did you feel compelled to immediately argue with it?

If the latter, pay attention, as you may be doing that in many parts of your life and be totally unaware of how rigidly you see the world.  This is not about being right or wrong, but about being able to hold multiple, sometimes conflicting view points so you can hold more reasonable conversations and make your decisions from a more informed/wider base.
OK.  Take a deep breath.  Thanks for playing the Leadership Game.

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