This is powerful stuff…

And so I’ll remind you that the real power in using what I’m about to tell you comes from using it in honest and ethical ways.

While you could nefariously exploit the following principles — pulled from psychology and the study of human decision making — I’d advise against it.

I’m not telling you this for moral reasons.  Although most decent morality will tell you not to exploit others’ weaknesses.

Rather, out of self-interest.  Because doing the right thing, doing the best for others, and making others’ lives and the world around you better will help you lead a happy life, too.

So, with my warning to do the right thing, I’ll share…

16 ways our brains make bad decisions!

This applies to your brain, my brain, and our prospects’ brains, too.

And not only does this list lead to bad decisions, it also leads to good decisions.

Our brains work in rather mysterious ways.  But usually if there’s a pattern to our behavior and thinking, it’s because it’s been adaptive and helped us ensure survival in the past.

Take prejudice, a manifestation of some of the wrong-headed thinking processes I’ll cover in a minute.

In the past, when humans were tribal, territorial, and constantly fighting for resources (okay, so not much has changed), you grew up learning to trust members of your tribe, and distrusting anybody else.  Because in the competition for local resources, you knew that helping your tribe would lead to resources (food, shelter, etc.) for yourself.  And if you let other tribes encroach on your resources, you’d often end up with less.

And so “us-vs-them” was a healthy way of thinking for millions of years of the development of our species.

Now that we have abundant resources and the technological capacity to deliver them to every person on the planet, it’s a rather outdated mode of thinking.

And yet, it painfully persists — especially in politics.

So…  What you’re about to read is a list of 16 “cognitive distortions” — as researched by two of the leaders of the field of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dr. Aaron Beck and Dr. David Burns.  (These were a focus in Dr. Burns’ best-selling book, Feeling Good.)

Their assertion — an echo of the philosophies of Stoicism and Buddhism — is that it’s not things or situations in your life that make you unhappy, but how you’re thinking about them.

And when your thinking is inaccurate — based in these cognitive distortions — it can make you unnecessarily unhappy.  (Their approach to therapy, among other things, involves developing an accurate perspective on situations, by investigating how you’re thinking about and interpreting them.)

Before we get to the list, here’s how it’s useful to you…

First, as a human being, it’s good to understand this list because it’s how your brain works.  And as the practice of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven, understanding when you’re using these patterns will allow you to think more accurately, and can help decrease symptoms of depression.

Second, as a human being, understanding these distortions will help you understand others.  Especially when you feel like they’re being irrational, you’ll probably realize that they are!  But they’re only being irrational in ways that you often are, too.  So treat them with understanding and kindness.

And third, as a marketer or salesperson, realize that your prospects will have these cognitive distortions about you.  Sometimes for better.  Sometimes for worse.  Taking this into account as you develop your selling message may help you ethically persuade them to take advantage of offers that will benefit them.  (Because you’re only reading this to improve your ethical persuasion, right?)

Here’s the list…

All-or-nothing/polarized thinking…

This is seeing things in black or white.  In the extremes.  Us versus them.  There’s no in between, there’s only opposites.

Over-generalization…

You have one or two examples of things going right or wrong, for you or against you, and you deem those representative of the trend or truth.

Mental filter…

This is where you only look to negative examples, and completely ignore the positives.

Discounting the positive…

You recognize that there’s evidence that contradicts your negative assessment of a situation, but you reject it because it doesn’t fit your negative interpretation.

Jumping to conclusions through “mind reading”…

You believe you know what someone else is thinking or feeling (especially if it’s a negative assessment) and make your decision based on that conclusion.

Jumping to conclusions through “fortune telling”…

You decide something will happen or come true, you make conclusions and predictions (often based on little evidence) and base your plan of action on that.

Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization…

You see things as bigger or smaller than they are.  It’s either a catastrophe or nothing, when in reality it’s somewhere in between.

Emotional reasoning…

You believe that what you feel to be true is the fact of the situation.

Should statements…

You create undue or unfair expectations of what you or those around you “should” do.

Labeling and mislabeling…

Giving something an identity (with an associated value judgment) based on limited data and over-generalization.

Personalization and blame…

Taking everything personally and as a reflection of your character (good or bad) even when you are not totally responsible, or alternately blaming others for things they aren’t fully responsible for.

Control fallacy…

Believing we have more or less control over our lives than we actually have, often at the extremes of polarization.

Fallacy of fairness…

Expecting the world to be fair, and to be treated in a way based on your idea of fairness.

Fallacy of change…

Basing your happiness and satisfaction on a situation or person changing to suit your desires.

Always being right…

The stubborn insistence that we must always be right, correct, accurate, to the point of arguing against clear evidence to the contrary.

Heaven’s reward fallacy…

Believing your struggles, suffering, and hard work must result in a just reward, and basing your happiness on that coming true.

My questions to you…

How have you been thinking inaccurately?  How have you either fostered or fought the inaccurate thinking in others (including your loved ones and your marketing prospects)?

What can you do to either counteract or roll with these inaccuracies and distortions, in the interest of bringing them to a better place?

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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