The Sixth Deadly Sin of Decision Making

March 23, 2017

 

 

When I completed the first draft of my book, PERSUADED… By The Seven Deadly Sins Of Decision Making and Influence, I optimistically sent it off to the editor. I learned from other authors the value of a good editor. They assured me that behind every successful writer is a talented editor.

 

Because it was my first book, I was self-conscious about my writing. I was leery about handing a sloppy manuscript to a professional editor, so the “first draft” of my book was really my third or fourth draft. I had self-edited the book a few times, in addition to having several friends read early drafts. I wanted to ensure the editor reviewed a polished version of my work. I had spent years researching and writing Persuadedand was proud of the “almost” finished product.

 

After a week of anticipation, I received the first chapter back from the editor. It felt like getting a paper back from a professor. Did she love it? Did it pass without changes? What grade will I get? The suspense was killing me.

 

The Word file opened in the “markup” view, which is a way to catalog every change made to a manuscript. I was surprised to see the right side of the page was filled with pink and green notes of the myriad of changes—from the very top of the page to the very bottom.

 

My heart sank. I didn’t get an “A” on my paper.

 

There were grammatical changes, formatting changes, comments and questions. She moved entire sections of my book around. The markups that hurt the most were the deletions. There were too many to count. So many of the precious facts, figures and psychological terms that I had included were now gone. I worked so hard and for so long on this book; why was she making so many changes?

 

I closed the file and took my dog for a walk. I needed to clear my head.

 

That is when I realized I had fallen for the sixth deadly sin of decision-making—inflexibility. We tend to be less flexible when we care deeply, and more flexible when we have less of a connection. In other words, the more we care, the less flexible we become. It was the pride of authorship. I had poured my heart, soul and resources into this book; so yes, I cared a great deal. And that triggered my inflexibility.

 

Here are some of the factors that drive inflexibility:

 

Functional fixedness. This is when we only see one way of doing something. I had been very thoughtful with the way I told my stories in the book, but the editor made changes to them. It was no longer 100% my original work and that was difficult to accept. I also felt a sense of rejection. 

 

Rosy retrospection. We remember the past as being better than it really was. In this case, I remembered my version of that chapter as being better than it actually was. I thought my stories were well-written, my statistics relevant and clever one-liners entertaining. In reality, it needed editing. All of those deletions hurt my fragile ego, but they were necessary.

 

Confirmatory bias. We really want confirmation that we are right, regardless of whether we’re talking about our writing, our idea, our choice, or our ideology. In my heart, I wanted the editor to confirm what I believed, which was the draft of my book was extraordinarily good. It wasn’t. It was merely a draft.

 

Obviously, I got over the trauma of having my book edited or I wouldn’t have written this piece. How did I get over my pride of authorship? With this simple three step process:

 

Step 1: I confirmed my goal to produce the best book possible. My editor was helping me achieve that goal. No one really cares how long or how hard you work on something. They don’t care how many drafts there were before the final version. They don’t even care who helped you along the way. They judge your work based on how it affects them. Does it benefit me in any way? Do I find it helpful or valuable or enjoyable? Is this worthy of my time and attention?

 

Step 2: I recognized that I was under the influence of the sixth deadly sin of decision-making—inflexibility. Identifying the problem is the first step to solving it. One of the reasons why I wrote the book was to help people identify when they are falling for a decision-making “sin.” So the book has already been helpful! 

 

Step 3: I read the edited version of the chapter without the markup view. I realized that I was repulsed by the changes to my work, not the actual edited version. In other words, I read it based on its own merits, rather than compared to my earlier version. Our natural instinct is to compare and contrast. This can distort our judgment when the comparison involves our work (see functional fixedness, rosy retrospection and confirmatory bias). 

 

How did it turn out? I love the edited version of my book. It’s better in every way. And I’m grateful to have had the help of a good editor.

 

How susceptible are we to the seven deadly sins of decision making? Very. I wrote a book about them and I was still influenced by one. Fortunately, I was able to recognize the sin and overcome its influence. And you can too. Pick up a copy of PERSUADED to learn more about how we can make better decisions, avoid mistakes prompted by the sins and leverage this information to persuade others.

 

 

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by the Seven Deadly Sins of Decision Making & Influence
 

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