Carol Kinsey Goman: Towards ‘Pure Vision’
The second annual Summer Peace Summit took place in online format on June 26. It brought together women leaders from different countries and fields of activity. Carol Kinsey Goman, permanent expert of the Peace 50 community, expert in non-verbal communication, and leadership contributor for Forbes, became one of the participants of the meeting. Today, she is also an author of popular books on body language, demanded international speaker at conferences and universities of almost 30 countries.
Carol Kinsey Goman
PhD author of books on body language, expert in non-verbal communication, author of the Body Language for Leaders best-selling video course
Carol Kinsey Goman believes that people need to learn to understand one another to preserve peace and develop the world. At the same time, it is not necessary to use words. Non-verbal communication plays an important role in interaction among people. Oftentimes, people can understand a lot about their interlocutors even when meeting them for the first time.
Whenever we meet new people, our brain automatically and immediately begins to categorize them in some way: male or female, adult of child, same or different, friend or foe. That helps us predict what is likely to happen next when interacting with those people. That shows how important it is how people see the world around them, how they perceive others.
The first step toward a ‘pure vision’ of the world is recognizing the unconscious biases we all have.
Carol Kinsey Goman singled out seven key factors that influence a person’s judgements and cloud our ‘pure vision’.
A person makes judgements about other people in the first few seconds of meeting them. If people lack mental agility and analysis skills, they can only rely on unconscious estimates. It is important to understand that people perceive others through the prism of their first impressions after that.
Obviously, it is far easier for people to trust and believe someone who comes from the same background or have similar interests.
Even relatively small similarities, like rooting for the same sports team or attending the same seminar, can create a bond.
There is a well-known principle in social psychology, according to which people define themselves in terms of social groupings. Any group that people feel part of is an ‘ingroup’ and any group that excludes them is an ‘outgroup’. People think differently about members in each group and behave differently toward them.
Similarities make us feel comfortable while differences cause suspicions and concerns. When considering people as part of an outgroup, we are more likely to judge any negative act as typical of their character and to attribute any positive actions as ‘the exceptional case’. However, we will have an opposite attitude towards ingroup members.
Appropriate behavior bias
People have a tendency to make judgments about another person’s integrity based on their own concept of appropriate behavior. For example, we believe we know for sure how we’d act if we were telling the truth or telling lies. Based on that, we are convinced that other people should behave the same way.
In reality, there is no universal behavior that signals deception or honesty. People are individuals with their own unique set of verbal and nonverbal behaviors.
Research shows that, unfair though it may be, and even if we proclaim otherwise, we judge people by their appearance. And we automatically assign favorable traits to good-looking people, judging them to be more likeable, competent, and honest than unattractive people.
Clifford Nass, Stanford University communication professor, conducted research to see if people would be affected by gender stereotypes when interacting with computerized voices. In one study, students were tutored by special programmes. Half of the course on love and relationships was taught by male-voiced tutors and the other by female-voiced ones.
The study showed that, according to the students, their female-voiced tutors had more sophisticated knowledge of the subject. The most interesting fact was that the information of the lessons in both cases was identical.
Facial features bias
It has been proved that there are facial features that we innately trust or mistrust. Researchers in Princeton’s psychology department conducted a research, in which they studied people’s reactions to a range of artificially generated faces.
The study showed that faces with high inner eyebrows, pronounced cheekbones, and a wide chin struck people as trustworthy. Faces with low inner brows, shallow cheekbones and a thin chin were deemed untrustworthy.
“Of course, you and I realize that eyebrow shapes and cheekbone prominence have no relationship to someone’s character or honesty, but unconsciously we override our rational minds and make an instant and instinctive judgment”, explains Carol Kinsey Goman.
Bias by proxy
Throughout life, we interact with many other people. Our subconscious remembers the experience of these interactions as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’. When we meet a new person, we immediately compare him or her with someone we know and expect the same actions and behavior from him or her. That’s why we can unconsciously be more skeptical of some people and more trusting of others.
After studying information about the factors influencing our perception of the world and people around us, we can move on to the next step leading to a ‘pure vision’.
The second step to ‘pure vision’ includes three parts: becoming conscious of the unconscious, pausing to take control, and assuming positive intent.
Part 1. Become conscious of the unconscious
Begin by recognizing that these unconscious evaluations are taking place. The minute we take an unconscious process and bring it into awareness, it begins to lose its power.
Part 2. Pause to take control
Once we realize how unconscious bias are influencing our evaluations of others, we need to pause to consider that we are vulnerable to a variety of judgment traps. The act of pausing gives us time to check some of our assumptions and to see how we might have judged someone inaccurately.
Part 3. Assume positive intent
When I speak to international audiences (so far in 28 countries), I have made more than my share of cultural mistakes, but they have always been graciously forgiven. As one client told me, “It’s okay, Carol, we know your heart’s in the right place.” The world would be a kinder place if we would all adopt the same attitude.
Fulfilment of social projects and charity activities are important steps to changing the world for the better. At the same time, it is necessary to remember that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Carol Kinsey Goman believes that ‘pure vision’ is crucial to preserving peace and developing a world that values everyone.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov