Character Creates Opportunity® – The Sledgehammer of Hindsight: Thursday, March 3, 2016

We are all familiar with the adage that “Hindsight is 20:20.”  With the benefit of looking back, many times we can see mistakes more clearly and we can assess weaknesses. The adage is rarely used in the context of looking back upon brilliant decisions that brought about great results.  Psychologists use various terms to describe the process: Hindsight bias, the knew-it-all-along effect, and creeping determinism are just a few.

Let’s face it, we all have made and we will continue to make a few mistakes along our way.meetingoftheminds_road_HWY_plane

Given we all have influence on those around us in the many roles we play whether they are in the home, the workplace, and the community, we need more effective ways to discuss mistakes and move beyond the hard-wired tendency to use hindsight as a sledgehammer to pound home the lessons brought on by mistakes and less than satisfactory outcomes.

As we build and strengthen our character, we have an opportunity to use the benefit of hindsight to positively influence another individual to make more effective decisions as they continue the journey.

The typical conversation flow from the clarity of 20:20 hindsight is to sledgehammer mistakes made with comments like “I told you so” or “If you had listened to me in the first place” or “What were you thinking?” These comments have been shown to have very little positive impact on improving decision making and are detrimental to maintaining open communication with those we care about most.

Below are a few ways to more effectively use the benefits of hindsight and avoid using the Sledgehammer of Hindsight on those we care about most:

  • Understand the thought process: Don’t start the discussion highlighting the outcome as that is the obvious part of the equation. Instead, start a discussion to better understand what the facts were at the time when initial decisions were made.  “What did you know to be true at the beginning?” Understanding an individual’s thought process around known facts is as area of great opportunity to grow and develop.  Many times it is fears, anxieties, and past mistakes that cloud our ability to objectively assess today’s facts and make effective decisions.
  • Assess the commitment. Once a decision was made, addressing the commitment demonstrated to carry out the decision is another area of great insight to help someone reach their full potential.  Once the facts are gathered and a decision is made, it is the personal commitment to carry out the decision that most often determines the outcome.  The half-hearted commitment is a potential drag on all of us throughout life.  

Avoiding the Sledgehammer of Hindsight in discussing mistakes with those we care about most will demonstrate empathy and support improved decision making in the future.  In addition, we stand a better chance of keeping lines of communication open which are so often shut down in our homes with those we care about most.   

As we use the benefits of hindsight to positively impact those around us, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to build long lasting health in our relationships.