The Inverse of Rose-Colored Glasses: Interpretation Bias


So, if seeing the world through rose-colored glasses is all about optimism and filtering out the negative, I guess the opposite might be wearing “jade-colored (jaded) glasses" or the concept of viewing a situation in a particularly negative way due to inherent personal bias.

Just this past week, I encountered people unknowingly wearing jaded colored glasses:

  1. A colleague is coming up on a significant career transition pivoting her away from a long-tenured career in a particular industry in favor of recent success in a particularly different industry. When she recently encountered clients with whom she’d established relationships over the years in her primary industry, she experienced probing questions challenging her for clarity on her intended career direction. Feeling threatened by the nature of their accusatory questions and perceived tone of voice, my friend walked away with negative sentiments about the interaction on behalf of her long-standing clients.

  2. In the second scenario, a coaching client spoke of her recently initiated job search, commenting that she was frustrated by a late Friday afternoon email from a potential employer reaching out to set up a time to connect the following week. She interpreted the seemingly haphazard response late on a Friday afternoon requesting a meeting for the following week as a sign of poor interest and obligatory communication from the potential employer.

As an objective third party, not close the historical events and without the associated bias, I could see clearly that both events were actually great news and complimentary to my associates. In the first case, my colleague had established such brand equity that her soon-to-be-former-clients were clearly worried and disappointed about the prospect of not working with her. Rather than being critical of her career transition as a judgement of her capability and readiness as she had interpreted, they were communicating their disappointment regarding their eventual inability to work with her.

In the second case, the recruiting organization was so motivated to connect with my client that they wanted to make sure to reach out to her before the week ended and establish a time to connect as soon as possible. Rather than putting off the communication to her as long as possible, as my client had perceived, the late Friday afternoon communication was a strong endorsement of her capability and candidacy.

So, “twice in one week”….got me thinking. How often do we wear jade-colored glasses without realizing it and unnecessarily apply a negative lens or bias to interactions, communications and situations which cause us to ultimately misinterpret them other than they are intended? I’d guess the answer is “pretty often.” And if so, do we know when we are doing it or when it is happening? Probably not?

So what can we do to remove our jaded colored classes and ensure our ongoing objectivity?

  1. Consider the motivations for behavior by the other party. Is there an explanation alternate to our own personal narrative regardless of how unlikely? Consider how truly unlikely that narrative may be.

  2. Do we leverage the objectivity of a neutral third party? Have you shared your story of the interaction – just the facts – with a neutral third party, avoiding introducing bias? And does their assessment of the interaction confirm, deny or otherwise refine our own perspectives?

  3. Have you considered your own bias? Is there a sequence of events or sentiments, current or historical, that may be biasing our own perspective on the interaction? In these examples, was the person anxious about their career transition or feeling like she wasn’t a good fit for potential employers or just generally discouraged? Can you admit and recognize when you may be applying bias to your own thinking?

  4. Can you reflect from “on the balcony”? Are you able to filter your bias from the facts and objectively view the sequence of events, the motivation of stakeholders (them and you) and recognize any potential bias?

Perhaps with increased awareness of the threat that jade-colored glasses exist and an understanding of when and why we may put them on, we can all become more objective to assess interactions as they are intended. And maybe….just maybe, we can shed our jade (jaded) colored glasses to be informed stakeholders managing our interactions and planning our next moves with an unbiased perspective that best positions ourselves for success. 

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Lisa Andrade is founder and CEO of M33, an executive coaching and leadership development company proven in both the “executive” and “coaching” in executive coaching. M33 leverages the art of leadership and advanced leadership science to create an executive blueprint tailored to you and your organization. For an initial consultation with Lisa, contact M33 at ClientServices@M33LLC.com.

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