How to Deal With Colleagues in Denial
Written for EO by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, disaster avoidance expert, speaker and author.
When was the last time a colleague said something so ridiculous that it made your jaw drop? A four-year study by LeadershipIQ.com found that 23 percent of CEOs were fired for denying reality, meaning refusing to recognize negative facts about his or her organization’s performance.
Entrepreneurs typically respond when people deny reality by confronting them with the facts and arguments. But research suggests that’s exactly the wrong thing to do.
Research on confirmation bias shows that we tend to look for and interpret information in ways that conform to our beliefs. There is an emotional investment in continuing to believe what you want to believe. Furthermore, studies on a phenomenon called the backfire effect indicate that when we are presented with facts that cause us to feel bad about our self-worth or worldview, we may sometimes even develop a stronger attachment to the incorrect belief.
These mental blindspots are two of over 100 dangerous judgment errors that result from how our brains are wired—what scholars in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics call cognitive biases. Fortunately, recent research in these fields shows how you can use pragmatic strategies to address these dangerous judgment errors in your professional life.
Rather than arguing, it is much more effective to use a research-based strategy I developed called EGRIP (Emotions, Goals, Rapport, Information, Positive Reinforcement), which provides clear guidelines on how to deal with people who deny the facts.