In earlier posts, I wrote that there are two approaches to presenting and evaluating evidence. The first is “to look for evidence along different dimensions and then draw dimension-specific conclusions based on this evidence”, and the second is “to highlight those pieces of evidence that support the product you’re trying to sell while overlooking or downplaying those pieces of evidence that could be barriers to the sale”.
The goal of the first approach is to accurately portray reality, while the goal of the second is to sell.
Every communication (written, over the phone, video, or in person) is composed of different degrees of both elements.
In order to communicate effectively, you need to know the degree to which to use each element.
And when filtering incoming communications, you need to know the degree to which the communicator’s goal is to portray reality versus to sell.
In an earlier post entitled “The nuance of reality”, I wrote that “Our tendency is to draw conclusions and then look for evidence to support those conclusions. Reality, however, is much more nuanced. Most good things have bad characteristics and most bad things have good characteristics.”
The underlying assumption of that post was that you’re operating in a context where your goal is to understand reality to the greatest extent possible. This calls for evaluating evidence to draw conclusions rather than drawing a conclusion and then looking for evidence to support it.
However, in a different context, the opposite approach is necessary. Specifically, when you’re selling something, your goal is to highlight those pieces of evidence that support the product you’re trying to sell while overlooking or downplaying those pieces of evidence that could be barriers to the sale.
In other words, selling is the practice of constructing reality by carefully selecting and presenting pieces of evidence which, while short of being comprehensive, hopefully remain individually accurate.
If you believe that something is good, it’s easy to find evidence to support your view.
Similarly, if you believe that something is bad, it’s to easy to find evidence to support that view.
In other words, our tendency is to draw conclusions and then look for evidence to support those conclusions.
Reality, however, is much more nuanced. Most good things have bad characteristics and most bad things have good characteristics.
So seeing reality calls for the reverse approach. We first need to look for evidence along different dimensions and then draw dimension-specific conclusions based on this evidence.
Almost inevitably, some evidence will support a good view along certain dimensions and other evidence will support a bad view along other dimensions. That’s the nuance of reality.
We reason in words. But words are an abstraction of reality.
When we describe what we see as reality with a certain set of words, the connotations which these words bring about in our brains produce a certain feeling. However, if we were to offer a plausible alternative description to the same reality using a different set of words, due to the different connotations which these words have in our brain, we would produce a different feeling.
Sometimes the different feelings which emerge from these alternative descriptions aren’t that far apart. But sometimes they’re quite different.
There are two takeaways from this reasoning. One is internal and the other is external.
Internally, when we use words to reason about reality, it’s useful to describe the same reality with different words. Our first attempt presents a limited view of reality which is influenced by the specific words we choose and the connotations which these words have in our brain. If we perform multiple descriptions, the spectrum of our resulting feelings is likely to provide a more accurate assessment of actual reality.
Externally, we need to pick our words wisely when communicating with others. Expressing the same reality with different words which have different connotations can produce a very different reaction in the recipients of our communications.