Someone I work with on community projects—I’ll call her Sue—has a tendency to forget to follow through on things.
It’s aggravating. It’s so aggravating that sometimes I get fed up even before she lets me down. My thoughts of Sue are peppered with words like always (messes up) and never (is reliable). My actions are salted with sighs and rolled eyes and muffled groans.
A few weeks ago my 11-year-old, Maggie, told me about a podcast she’d listened to about something called confirmation bias. “That’s when you have an opinion about something, and then all you see is proof that what you believe is true,” she explained. Seeing that I needed a bit more clarification she added, “You know, like when you think someone is lazy. You stop noticing what they do, and only see what they don’t.”
My thoughts turned uncomfortably to Sue. I wondered how much of my frustration with her is due to her failings, and how much is due to my eagle eye for seeing them. There have been times when she did what she was supposed to.
Did I notice?
Did I give her credit?
Do I ever focus on her strengths?
Do I offer positive reinforcement when she does what she’s promised?
Perhaps the single most important thing I can do to improve my working relationship with Sue is to follow the advice of Paul, and remember to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). I need to develop the kind of confirmation bias where I habitually see what’s good in Sue, so that both of us grow into the people God wants us to be.