When we take every decision in terms of “best or worst”, we often ignore the options we have in the spectrum.
We stick to our beliefs for a long time until a fact proves us wrong. Binary thinking is a way of classifying every situation as “good or bad”, “right or wrong”, “success or failure”.
When we are tired of decision making, we often fall back to this form of thinking because it is easier and requires less effort.
The brain always chooses the path of least effort because that path already has a robust neural network in place. That is why binary thinking goes on auto-pilot, and you don’t feel any compromise on your brainpower when following it.
How is binary thinking harmful?
I didn’t understand the flaws of dichotomous thinking before I started to look at things from multiple angles.
When you classify every situation as good or bad, you are making a snap judgement that you are not backing correctly by your experiences or even facts.
When we don’t account multiple perspectives before making a decision, we often end up with quick decisions that feel valid only for a short time.
If a situation changes even a little bit, we might have to rethink again because we were close-minded when making the decision the first time.
How to overcome dichotomous thinking?
The perception of reality for every person is different. We can either fixate on our past experiences without doing any research or look at the current situation from multiple angles to gain even a broader view.
Dichotomous thinkers are hard to be around because of these two reasons:
- they always look at the extremes of every situation, often to avoid deep conversation and come to a quick conclusion.
- they are hardly open to feedback
Incorporating feedback in everything you do takes up a huge chunk of brainpower and is tiring. When it matters, though, is the case when we are interacting with people.
I have been practising this feedback process for the last two years, and it helps me to understand the problem from a new angle every time.
Think on the grey spectrum instead.
Your mind is flexible. It can adapt to anything if you expose it for long enough.
But we have to push it into doing that. When you want to make a decision, and you don’t get an answer right away, don’t fall to binary thinking just because it is safe and requires less effort.
Instead, do some research to get a broader idea of the topic and then come to a proper conclusion.
I have tried it for a long time. It even helps me build meaningful connections with people because I am open to looking at a problem from the second person’s view, instead of fixating on my own experiences.
I still meet many people who follow binary thinking in their day-to-day life. I feel it when talking to them, taking advice from them. Your thinking will naturally show in actions too!
Binary thinkers are hard to be around for this simple reason: they evaluate everything in extremes. And since this is a mindset, I can’t change anyone’s thinking pattern.
But when sometimes I discuss with my friends about why their quick decision hurt them so much, we come across this snap judgement which culminates from dichotomous thinking and how doing a bit of research and gaining perspective helps in thinking on the grey spectrum, instead of the extremes. It also open you to a world of creative possibilities.
This blog belongs to a series of posts I am publishing in this 100-days streak. Navigate to the end of article 22, for the references from day 23 onwards. If you would like to read the ones before day 22, here is the first one that documents them in the end.