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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Hunch or Prejudice?

What is the difference between an intuitive hunch and a prejudice? This is one of my virtual questions that I enjoy asking.

It's curious to me how each and every perceptual attitude that someone can adopt seems to have alternate ways of describing it. These descriptions, definitions and interpretations seem to color how the subject and person is defined to express another bias or prejudice. Some can get quite...colorful, with pointed accusations.

For instance, students often stop themselves from asking a question of a teacher out of respect for that teacher. But from the teacher's point of view,, "why don't my students ask ANY question?" In my culture, you can have rapport or you can have respect, but not both.

Another instance, it's obvious from my posting here that I enjoy to take the time to offer the benefit of my observations to other people. I've taken the time to learn to write to do this, which has been an effort for me because my talking style isn't easily translated into the forms of writing.  But now others are coming to recognize my investment of being able to write. Whenever there is recognition of "talent" or ability, people inevitably wonder why you do such a thing. They assign a motive to your actions - sometimes these motives are not what you would answer if they had asked you. In some cases, they react as if the person who has invested value in an opinion must be a proselytizer or a salesperson.

But sometimes, people complaint that I am being "too" helpful. They seem to not appreciate my motives or my open-mindedness because I don't communicate that very well.

If I come up with creative thinking ideas on their behalf without warning them or getting their permission to do so, they react strangely. They're slightly intimidated. They don't know why I can do it or why I would do such a thing for them. Perhaps they assign nefarious motives to what I'm doing or why I'm doing it. I've been accused of "co-dependence," but I just don't have the vested interests and addictions to go along with the profile. Demonstrating my ability to think has also often gotten me defined me as "analytical," as if I am an inflexible one-trick pony.  Am of the opinion that everyone has multiple talents, often undeveloped.

I've learned to actively refuse to defend myself and instead invite participation. But sometimes it just doesn't work. People misread my communicating as being upset. They don't dare to confront or engage, fearing they might offend.

Would love to open a conversation to suggestions on how to better this state of affairs, because I think this same issue affects many, many interactions with many people. Perhaps I just need to joke about it more often.

Anyone have any suggestions or explorations...stories? Probably not. Somehow, the way that I write doesn't invite comments. Not sure what to do about that.


  1. Franis, I've been following you now for a long while on various forums. I find your writing to be engaging, imaginative and clear headed. I've come to read you mostly as a stundent of the Alexander Technique. Your writing has also been quite helpful to my own development in attempting to learn AT here on the WWW through words and the concepts they represent.

    Regarding your interest in hunch versus prejudice, I too find it interesting and think there can be a subtle distinction. It seems to me all of us, by our very nature, are predisposed to anticipate, act and react in ways that are familiar. In AT terms we might call this predisposition, our habitual self. However, even if you are schooled in AT there is no question you are you, and have these unique predispositions because of your unique personality and your own personal history/circumstances that have defined your experience.

    For me, a hunch is more like the way, because of these predispositions we have, that you are - to use your term - wired to think a particular way. If you possess even a little open mindedness, however, those hunches do not turn into a habit. Habit will almost certainly, every time, cause you to be predjuiced one way or another regarding some perceived outcome.

    What do you think?

  2. Comment from Graeme Allen on the discussion of the blog:

    My first reaction, probably made too quickly, is that a prejudice is an embedded view whereas an intuitive hunch is a passing thought. If that hunch becomes embedded, it could become a prejudice when it fits the definition for 'prejudice'.
    In the de Bono sense, prejudice may be part of someone's logic bubble, and there is yet another way to describe something that can be described more judgementally.
    Possibly the 'question for teacher' situation has most to do with the teacher. I recollect one very experienced school leader saying on national TV when she retired that all teachers must accept the reality that everyday, they have the potential to be humiliated by a child. She also suggested if they don't like that sort of 'heat', get out of the 'kitchen'.
    I have had students say to me that the reason they don't ask teacher questions is because 'teachers don't really listen". Again, teachers could well look at themselves and their interactions.
    I think your thoughts about writing are both interesting and topical. I had a recent conversation with two PhDs who claimed they don't interact on social sites because they 'can't write'. This could be one of the fears that restricts the value of networking. I believe AMAZEE has tertiary connections researching this issue.
    The allegations against you, unworthy of course, could be construed as jealously. You could be seen as someone who has jumped the 'fear hurdle'. If you have access to any of Maslow's works, check out his chapter: The Need to Know and the Fear of Knowing, or his writing about The Jonah Complex. Both these encapsulate your thinking.
    Keep writing, Franis! Keep writing!
    Again, Maslow would describe those reactions as neurotic, plan and simple.
    I too believe that everyone has talents. I'm informed that in Lithuania, the Jewish community regarded every child as 'talented'. Intellect was not necessarily related to 'talent'. Unfortunately, this value is not universal and while schools give focus to those with abilities prescribed as 'important', many talents are ignored or downgraded.
    No, thinking skills on the de Bono style are not analytical anymore than you need to analyse trajectories, force and whatever when using a hammer on a nail. These thinking tools become embedded and automatic. You can see my use of some of these tools in my responses.
    Again, neuroticism is common and I can't think of a better term for the sorts of resistance and the sorts of reactions to your thoroughly healthy behaviours you describe so well.
    I'm sure this area is going to be looked at in the next post: "Abe and Ed Revisited" on Check it out early next week.

  3. Thanks Graeme and Jerry for responding at length!

    After many decades of investigation - which may or may not help anyone else besides me - think I have sorted out prejudice/intuition question. Like Graeme, for me it has been purely a context thing. If the thought comes unbidden and without a traceable line of logic, it's probably an intuitive hunch. My hunches often have visual images attached also. If it comes in familiar phrases and axioms and with a traceable associative link to what I had been thinking previously, it's probably a prejudice.

    I'd like to hear how others identify the difference. How can you tell when an intuitive hunch has arrived that makes it different from a "regular thought"?

    Neurotic or whatever, I'm really curious as to what I can do to to deal with these sorts of people. Purely from the point of view of - they're so many of them!

    On the Alexander Technique googlegroups list, there was recently an interesting discussion on the differences and similarities between Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais Method. This has led me to recognize that Feldenkrais has evolved a very codified way of speaking to direct what students should do that is at the core of training. This is very different from how Alexander Technique was traditionally taught. Alexander, (and many of his British students) often used stress and intimidation to offer a provocation, and then showed the way out of it.

    Since the teacher sets the stage, so to speak, we're responsible to quit pontificating, quit using rhetoric, quit intimidating and being all-knowing and starting to offer some real value.

  4. >>Neurotic or whatever, I'm really curious as to what I can do to to deal with these sorts of people. Purely from the point of view of - they're so many of them!<<

    Accept them. They are we. The sense of separateness that comes from being misunderstood is only a seeming. We do ourselves and each other no good by getting bound up in alienation. You needn't believe in alienation. Withhold your belief from the idea. Seriously, it's that simple.

    I understand the puzzlement at being assigned amazingly inappropriate motives. Perhaps it is not a problem to be solved. Maybe it is enough to enjoy your own amazement when this happens: to spontaneously accept participation in the phenomenon of being misunderstood, without indignation or frustration or disappointment -- to bear witness to the spectacle, without escalation. It does happen a lot. And look: We're still standing!

    >>Since the teacher sets the stage, so to speak, we're responsible to quit pontificating, quit using rhetoric, quit intimidating and being all-knowing and starting to offer some real value.<<

    This admirable zeal could be too much of a good thing. How do you offer real value without rhetoric? i.e., what verbal tools do we have, other than words? If by rhetoric you mean jargon, well, yes. Terms must be accessibly defined. That's only fair.

    It might seem virtuous to consider the presence of every possible fault in oneself, but doing so will waste time that you could be spending joyfully. If you hold some knowledge and seek to share it verbally, at what point does sharing become pontificating? Are pontificators identified by their conviction, or their enthusiasm, or their willingness to give detail...? I reckon that a pontificator merely speaks to someone who doesn't feel like listening.

    Be a bit gentler with yourself, little sister. When you are gentler, suddenly the narrow-minded and frightened and suspicious minds of this world hold little power to hurt you. Misunderstanding is revealed as a process that will come to an end, given time and compassion.

    There's nothing wrong with the way you write. It's in the nature of the internet that other people's own navels interest them more.

    Flowers for you: *%*%*%*%*%* Good blog!

  5. Not so much hurt as... frustration!

    My quest to better communicate is based on the idea that because I am able to change myself around - so it follows that it's my responsibility to do so. Someone has to do something for the communication to happen - that would be me. It's not going to be the person who is resistant or clueless.

    What I seem to be heading towards is how to use emotional appeals with parallel thinking skills - as opposed to argument-style presentations designed to convince.