Yesterday, I screwed up. Not in a major, life-changing way, but I chose to ignore a doubt and it could have come back to bite me on the butt. Is it just me that finds it so difficult to follow my instinct, or is it now a basic part of the human condition that means we don’t trust what our gut tells us?
This particular incident revolved around a post on the BOTTLE blog, which I moderate. I approve all posts that we publish and, as such, it’s my self-imposed responsibility to ensure that nothing that compromises BOTTLE’s core principals makes its way online. That necessitates a good sense of balance as I want each and every member of the BOTTLE team who contributes a post to feel comfortable voicing their opinions about relevant media and social media issues. So I maintain a very open editorial policy; write what you want to write. It makes for a very varied blog and, more importantly, it affords every consultant the opportunity to get involved and to learn.
Over the weekend one of my less senior colleagues wrote a post pushing the idea that we shouldn’t alienate those who haven’t yet embraced the digital world. It’s a good, well-written post, prompted by a real-life event (tick!) and drawing on personal experience (tick!) that goes against the grain (tick!) to offer a balanced opinion (tick!) and a firm conclusion (tick!). But when I read it, a couple of sentences rang little bells largely due to a phrase I have personally come to despise: “I don’t get it”. It was used in relation to personal circumstances rather than professional, but what I should have done was to ask the author to edit it, as I know only too well that ‘not getting it’ in relation to social media is an all too common topic for PR bashing. Things like this post on SpinSucks make my blood boil. What I did, however, was ignore my instinct and publish verbatim, choosing to overlook one tiny phrase for the overall message of the post.
I was wrong. Towards the end of the day, the post received a negative comment from someone who I know and whose opinion I respect. It’s a comment that, if I’m totally honest, I could have seen myself leaving (or at least thinking) had I read the post. A tiny storm in a large teacup, sure. But what my decision to publish unedited did was to open the author up to criticism and to affect her confidence. And, on my part, that’s not right.
So what is it with not listening to what your instincts tell you? Psychologists have long debated what counts as instinct, whether it’s repetitive behavioural patterns that are innate rather than learned, or whether it refers to motivational drives. Either way, we’ve evolved to the point now where Abraham Maslow argued that we no longer even have true instinct because we have the ability to override it. And maybe that’s the point? Do we ignore our gut feel because our mind now overrides our innate feelings? I don’t know the answer to that, obviously – I’m no psychologist. But I do know that I’m beating myself up today for not listening to my intuition. I’m curious as to how often you listen to yours?
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