The Weekly Resolve Email 41 – Change Your Question

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Helping You Make Better Decisions

Hey, Darren here.

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Hi, decision-makers,

The worst reassurance you can get is a binary one.

A binary assurance gives us one of two answers — yes or no. This muttered word from a friend brings only the false confidence of certainty. It is a belief-driven from the ignorance of incomplete information.

When you think about it, a binary assurance is anything but reassuring.

We know this, but still, we seek it.

“Are you sure?” we ask. Our default is to seek certainty. Hence a question that limits the choice of answer, and when asked of our friends, only brings the confirmation we want to hear. The folly of this situation beggars belief, but sadly, it happens all the time. It is confirmation bias by proxy.

To break the cycle of false reassurance, we need to change the question.

“How sure are you?”

A better question leads us to understand the probable outcome. The consideration of likelihood becomes a factor in our quest for reassurance. The probability now weighs in our choices.

Incomplete information is now embraced rather than ignored.

The spectre of incomplete information opens our minds to the ‘what if’ position. If this doesn’t happen, what are the consequences? The second and third-order effects become front of mind.

The reassurance of an external source — when you’ve asked the right question — can uplift the quality of your decision significantly.

‘How sure are you?’ brings not only the decision into question, by the confidence which stands behind it. The introduction of confidence gives the decision a new perspective which a binary answer ignores. Now, factors of uncertainty form the foundation of choice.

So, when you’re seeking reassurance when deciding, ask the better question.


A Confidence Calibration Exercise

Associating decisions with confidence is a process of deciding we don’t often do. But, as my reassurance piece demonstrates, it can help you embrace uncertainty. This confidence calibration exercise opens your mind to considering the certainty of your answers.

How do you score? Let me know…


New For You

Non-Binary Decisions: Yes or no answers dominate our decision-making. This article explores how to start making non-binary decisions. Read the full article here.


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Make great decisions!

Darren Matthews

Founder, The Resolve Blog

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