We live in a time where information is at our fingertips. Literally. Can’t remember the show that actress was in? Google it. Disagree on what happened at last week’s party? Text other guests for their take. The world wide web and mobile telephone devices have made it so easy for us to have easy access to information. Centuries ago only scholars, priests and those in power had access to information. Today no matter who or where you are, information is readily accessible. Our current challenge is not access to information. The challenge is how we process and utilize the information we receive.
As a trained marketer, I know how and why facts are bent and repackaged. No matter if selling a product, a politician, or a cause, savvy communicators can twist the truth until it says what they want. Paulo Coelho said, “There are a thousand ways to interpret reality. Distinguishing fact and fiction is not only difficult for the writer, but for anyone. We live under a barrage of information that we believe are facts, but often they can be fiction.”
We can’t control how facts are twisted due to bias or self-centered interests. What we can control, is how we process the information coming to us. I have written before about questioning the validity of the information before sharing or acting upon it. In addition to my previous advice about analyzing the source, the quality of the information, and the conclusions, I’d like to add two more steps.
Before reacting to information or even analyzing it, pause. If the information makes you mad or sad, give yourself a time out. If you start researching right away, you will unconsciously search for information that proves what you want to believe. By pausing first, we are able to contain our emotions so we can do a more objective search. Pausing also means we don’t give in to our knee-jerk reactions. Our society looks like a tennis match right now. A jab is thrown, and we react and send one back, and then that person reacts and sends one back. Again and again and again. No discussion takes place. No thought takes place. We are reacting, unconsciously, from a place of fear and anger. We are not thinking, reasoning, and then acting from our truth. If we want to improve our communications and our world, we need to stop blindly reacting to information.
After a thorough and objective analysis, consider the appropriate action. Is there something to say or do? Are there boundaries to put in place? Is there a mental reframe to be made? Remember, as my dear friend says, “waiting is an action too.” Sometimes it is best to wait for more information or the right timing. The importance here is that we don’t get stuck in a mire of complaining, worrying, and being angry. Rehashing the facts only keeps the pain happening. Information is only helpful if it is used to make informed decisions and then to take action.
I truly hope in these days of more information and less truth, that you can keep your head above water, stay out of the emotional response, take responsibility for the information you consume, and remember you have the power and responsibility to act.