We’re hardwired for binary discrimination and judgment.
Yes / No
On / Off
Good / Bad
In group / Out group
It’s a fast way of operating, but it’s often not helpful in complex, social situations.
We live in a world of nuance but that’s not what’s baked in to our default operating system. So it’s time for an upgrade – or at least a patch.
If we were to think of all the points on a line, most of the available positions are not at the ends, but at somewhere on the continuum.
If we plot that same line against a second criteria and graph the distribution of values, we get another line, but in this case, the points are likely to bunch up in certain places. Think about the bell curve or the power-law curve.
The natural world gives us distributions and nuance, but we immediately try to put it into binary categories. Tall & short. Young & old.
It’s worth remembering the all the available points on the continuum when deciding how we want to think and act. The most advantageous positions are usually not at the extremes, but somewhere in the middle.
Assertiveness is on the continuum between submission and dominance. It’s somewhere in the middle and in most contexts, it’s overwhelmingly more valuable than either of the other two.
We have the urge to see the world as black and white, but in reality it’s a million shades of grey (here in London, it’s literally grey).
There will be cases where the answer lays at one of the extremes. There will be times when the only rational options are two, mutually exclusive points of view. But those times are rare – and often they will not be the yield the superior position.
In a world of 1s and 0s, don’t be afraid to be a 0.5.