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Do you take things at face value?
Do you take things at face value?
Have you ever heard a negative rumour/gossip about someone and decided to keep your distance from the person being gossiped about? Or have you ever sided with someone in a conflict without knowing all of the facts? Have you ever fallen victim to false advertisement and purchased an item that was not what was claimed?
As you may have gathered from my questions above, today I will be discussing the act of ‘taking things at face value’. Face value means accepting something as the truth without checking its validity. Before I begin, I must assert that we are all guilty of partaking in this behaviour at some point of our lives, although our reasons for doing so can vary; perhaps you received the information from someone you trust or someone you perceive as having no reason to lie, or maybe the information that has been relayed to you is about a competitor or perceived ‘enemy’ and can put you in an advantage in some way or maybe the information you received coincides with your own personal beliefs ergo the information acts as ‘confirmation’, or, in cases of conflict or disagreements, maybe a person involved is someone you are close to e.g. a family member making you more inclined to take a position quickly.
I never gave this topic much thought until I started working in the field of Human Resources. HR professionals are often called upon to resolve workplace conflict. The methodology of resolving conflict is typically a four stage process, 1. Hearing the arguments of the opposing parties 2. Speaking to witnesses, if necessary 3. Theorising the incident or event 4. Recommending ways to resolve the conflict. It did not take me long to realise that no two stories are the same; even people who were on the same ‘side’ of a disagreement had varying interpretations of events. So why is this? This is where our perceptions come into play.
Our perceptions are a formulation of a number of factors this includes but is not limited to our values, awareness, emotions/emotional investment, preconceived ideas, biases and consciousness
Our perceptions are a formulation of a number of factors this includes but is not limited to our values, awareness, emotions/emotional investment, preconceived ideas, biases and consciousness. Our perceptions are, as a result of this, highly individualised. Our perceptions play a huge part in how we interpret the world around us and ultimately interpret situations. Thus if I have a significant bias or a large emotional investment into an incident/person, it can alter the way I perceive and react especially in times conflict and disagreement. This can be a stark contrast to how I would react if I were not emotionally invested. Armed with this information, I understood that it would be unfair and disadvantageous take information at face value especially in matters of conflict, it would serve me well to hear all sides. The same is true of gossip. Many people fall victim to bullying and gossip. The victim of gossip can face social isolation and damage in reputation.
Rumours gain power and life by those who accept information blindly
Whether we have been the target or had information relayed to us by another party, each of us have had first hand experience with gossip. Dictionary.com defines gossip as ‘idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others’, The rationale of a gossiper is to share unverified information with others who are neither part of the problem nor part of the solution in the hopes of gaining an advantage. What makes gossip unique is its over reliance on ‘things we have heard or seen’ in contrast to direct experience and direct communication. Gossip is typically speculative and often the sharing of opinions rather than facts. If you have been the target of a salacious rumour you will be well aware of how damaging it can be.
. In order to stop gossip and rumours in its tracks, seek to question the motives of the person relaying the information to you; could they be providing you with this information to gain your favour in some way? Another great way to stop gossip is to not get involved! When someone presents you with gossip, it is perfectly okay to say ‘sorry, I don’t want to get involved in this’.
It is important to note that taking things for face value is not exclusive to relationships. As mentioned earlier, a large proportion of us have fallen victim to false advertisement. False advertisement is the use of false , misleading , or unproven information to advertise products to consumers or advertising that does not disclose its source. The success of false advertising usually relies upon the consumers proclivity towards taking things at face value. This was shown in the case of Activia Yogurt. With its use of the terms ‘clinically’ and ‘scientifically’ proven nutritional benefits, Dannon’s popular Activia brand yoghurt lured consumers into paying more for its purported benefits. However, upon closer investigation it was found that it was pretty much the same as any other yogurt. Dannon was forced to pay $45 million in damages to consumers that filed the lawsuit and others who said they’d been bamboozled.
Activia was forced to pay $45 million after being found of false advertising
So why do we take things at face value? Social Climate
We have very recently entered a new age; the age of information or as astrologers say the age of Aquarius which is to a great extent the same thing. Long gone are the days of scheduling trips to the local library every time we need to source information; with the introduction of our very favourite internet search engine ‘Google’ we can find out just about anything we want in seconds. While this is has its benefits, it also means that our brains are exposed to large amounts of information at great speed. You can just imagine how hard our brains are working? We process so much information throughout the day, that we just simply don’t have the time to go much deeper than face value.
2. Its Easier
Whether its establishing the facts of a disagreement, investigating the origin of a rumour or conducting a thorough research of the ingredients listed on a food product, it all takes up a lot of time and energy. Energy that we often don’t have. We have a lot demands placed on us nowadays; work, kids, pastimes, hobbies and studying to name a few. Not many of us would want to add to our long list of energy taking activities. Energy is a finite resource.
And Gossip ?
3. As social creatures we are hardwired to take gossip at face value
Like it or not, we are the descendant of busybodies. Evolutionary psychologists believe that our preoccupation with the lives of others is a result of our prehistoric brain. Our ancestors lived in a pretty harsh natural environment, they lived in small groups and needed to keep a close eye on enemies, under such conditions, our ancestors faced a number of social problems; who is reliable and trustworthy? who is a cheater? usually needed to make these decisions quickly. In this sort of environment, an intense interest in the lives of others would have certainly been handy and strongly favoured natural selection.
In conclusion, it would appear that taking things at face value has its benefits and implications. While it can lead us to making some misinformed decisions and judgements, it does allow us to sieve through information quicker and saves time in an already busy world.
When is the last time you took something at face value?
Have you ever jumped to conclusion without all the facts? If so, how did it work out for you. Would you do it again?