By Joy Guevara, Life & Strengths Coach
Photo: Thanos in Marvel’s Avengers End Game
I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, a book about the mind’s ability to make high-speed decisions, judgments, or predictions–even if it is given very little information. Among psychologists, this process is called “thin-slicing”. Snap judgments, first impressions, and instinct are the common forms of thin-slicing that people do. The mind does it numerous times every day.
In his book, Malcolm takes his readers, through stories, into the bright and dark sides of thin-slicing. He starts it off with the story of a psychologist who devises a system that can predict the success or failure of a marriage by just observing a “slice” or three minutes of a couple’s conversation.
Then, he ends his book with the case of the four policemen who shower bullets on an African American who they mistakenly thought was up to something fishy (but who is just out to take some fresh air, as it turns out). In between, there are the Coke-versus-Pepsi marketing saga, the US war games, and the world of a person with autism.
So, when should I trust my snap judgement? Malcolm posits that I trust it if it’s within my area of expertise.
If not, I should dig deeper and get more information. The only way to sharpen my instinct and make my first impressions more reliable when it comes to coaching, for instance, is to master the tools of the trade by constant practice. Only then I am able to recognize and distinguish in a snap, a great coaching session from a good one.
People’s biases and prejudices affect thin-slicing. And because the brain makes these decisions in lightning speed, literally, it happens at the subconscious level. It means that I do it unconsciously.
As a strengths coach, people also make snap decisions within the realm of their dominant themes most of the time. The more people are aware of their naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling, and behaviour, the more they can sharpen our snap decisions. As someone with a lot of thinking themes, I need to flex my brain muscles regularly, so that I develop agility in my decision making processes.
Joy is Gallup-certified strengths coach. She is also a life and success coach provoking reflection and moving forward people and organizations since 2014. When not coaching, she gives piano and guitar lessons and plays with her nephews, Courage and Valiant.