Recently I saw the following social media post from a friend and former coworker: “I trust nothing from anybody anymore. I’ll go with my gut instincts and do what I think is right.” Like my friend, you’re inundated with more information than ever and very likely frustrated by all of it. According to one source, you’re subjected to 5000 marketing messages a day! All of those messages, and plenty of other information, is right there at your fingertips with social media and Google. And it’s available 24x7X365 through your phone. The trouble is, much of the information you’re exposed to seems contradictory so I get the frustration. But abandoning reason for gut level decisions on important issues is a bad idea!
Looking to authorities when making decisions usually serves us quite well. If I have a question about taxes I talk to my accountant. If it’s a legal consideration I consult an attorney. When it comes to health issues, I have friends who are doctors so I seek their input.
In each of the cases just noted, the individuals I go to have far more knowledge than you or I possess and that’s multiplied by the amount of time they’ve been practicing their trade. Imagine trying to play a sport – soccer, basketball, golf, etc. – against a professional athlete – an expert. Apart from making a lucky play here or there, you would be dominated every time! And so it is with people who are experts in their chosen field.
Credible authorities are trusted experts. It doesn’t matter how many degrees someone has, the breadth and depth of their experience, or their prior accomplishments if they can’t be trusted. When it comes to this I’ve often referred to Bernie Madoff, the disgraced financial investor convicted of a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. Madoff knows more about financial markets and investing than perhaps 99.9% of all people…but would you trust him with your money? Of course not! Trust is a critical element of authority if advice is to be acted upon.
Going with Your Gut
If you feel you can’t trust experts you may wrongly think you’ll be just as well off to make decisions on your own. Most likely a bad move over the long haul because you’re operating from very limited knowledge when compared to experts. Even if you decide to do your own research you’re still relying on the expertise of others to some degree. In other words, you have to place some trust in the sources you’re looking at.
The worst thing you can do is go with your gut according to my friend Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, founder of Disaster Avoidance Experts, LLC, and author of Never Go with Your Gut. Most of the decisions we make today require rational thought because our guts can lead us astray.
If you’re in a life and death situation where you need to make an instant decision there’s no time for researching pros and cons. Go with your gut at those times! That’s what your instincts were designed to do – help you survive. But, seldom are you in such tight predicaments in modern life. Most situations you face today have a myriad of choices with far reaching consequences so investing time and energy into decision making is the prudent approach.
To Do This Week
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Social media seems to have created “experts” in abundance but don’t fall for that. And the friend who has a friend whose distant relative is an expert in [fill in the blank]. Don’t fall for that either. Instead of wading through social media posts, which are often fake and almost always biased, do some research of your own. When decisions are important – your health, financial future, career, who you’ll vote for, etc. – consider the following advice:
- Research the information shared. Does it make sense? Is it unbiased or does it have a clear slant? Is it data driven or just opinion? A fact would be, “That car is $35,000.” An opinion would be, “That car is expensive.” Big difference between fact and opinion.
- Research the source. Is the person or organization credible? Are they relying on data or opinion? Are they advocating for a particular point of view or ideology? Sometimes even data can be manipulated to support a point of view.
- Consider multiple sources. Do you want to go with an outlier when the vast majority of credible sources are pointing in a different direction? Ask yourself why the majority might be congregating around a particular position? While there are always exceptions, much of the time the crowd is right so give strong consideration to what the majority are saying.
Following these three simple steps won’t lead you to the optimal answer 100% of the time but I’m confident they will lead you to the best answer far more than throwing in the towel and relying on your gut.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.