Last week, I discussed the myth of objectivity and impartiality as a barrier to really listening. Next, I’m going to talk about a related myth: the myth of universality.
Because we don’t see the influence of our group on our thinking (see last week’s post for more details), when we hear things that make sense to us, we identify them as real and true. In doing so, we’re generalizing from our experience to all humanity.
That’s fine if you are your target audience. That's what I believe was behind Steve Job's comment about never believing in market research. I wrote about that comment in 2012.
But if you want to (or need to) listen to others who aren’t like you, this myth gets in the way.
We might give lip service to the fact that all people are different, that culture matters and individual experience matters, but then throw up our hands because it’s all too complicated to think or care about.
Universality isn’t a total myth. There are some universal human emotions and experiences. But usually, there are trappings surrounding those universal truths, and we aren’t aware of them because we aren’t aware of our own biases. Again, as I mentioned last week, the group we (and they) belong to influences our thoughts and reactions in systematic ways. Sound complicated? Luckily, we don’t need to understand every single person in order to understand the patterns in belief framework.
You may have heard about the Clif Bar ad where a man feeds an eagle regurgitated food that some people find disgusting. This is likely the myth that was at work behind that ad. I’m guessing it didn’t even occur to the creative team that some people wouldn’t love the ad because they assumed their experience of the world was universal.
Here’s my original post on this ad.
Stay tuned. There are more myths and barriers coming. If you want to learn to really listen, please subscribe to my blog so you don't miss any of the important tips.