False Comparisons

It was a question that every parent hates: “Mom, why do you like Bubby more than me?” Think about how pervasive comparisons are in our lives. When we make a purchase, an algorithm compares your purchase to other possible purchases you might be interested in. Job performance assessments are often not based upon a standard, but comparisons to others.

Comparisons have become big business. We pay influencers to help us make comparisons. We are often asked to make ratings which are then used to influence others. Political polls constantly tell us what are the most important issues in a campaign.

Think about the ways that comparison can give false impressions:

  • Comparisons are based on criteria selected by those who want the comparison to be favorable to their interests.
  • When we make side-by-side comparisons based upon different criteria, there is an implicit assumption that all of the criteria have equal weight. That is rarely the case.
  • Comparisons rarely reflect what we really value because those values are hard to measure. We make comparisons on available traits, not what’s really important to us.
  • When we make comparisons, we are often perplexed by what to do with an outlier. Maybe the outlier has one distinctive quality that makes it clearly the best choice, but that quality won’t show-up well in a comparison.
  • Comparisons can often be demeaning or have unexpected consequences. This is especially true when comparisons are used in competitive award recognitions. Those who are being compared may resort to unsavory behaviors to stand out in the comparisons.

There are many other ways that comparisons can be false. It would be helpful if each of us could step back and think about the comparisons we make or have made for us. Are we in fact making false comparisons?

The answer to the above question is probably yes, in most cases. If that’s the case, how can we avoid making the best choice without making false comparisons? Think about the most important decisions you have made (or are likely to make) in your life.

  • Your choice of whom to marry.
  • Your choice of a career.
  • Your choices about your most important values and beliefs.

How did you make those choices? You may have had some influence in evaluating your choices, but comparisons were probably not a factor. You probably went with what felt right to you. Feeling right is not a comparison. It is a qualitative mix of judgment, gut feel, visioning, faith, values, beliefs, and comfort.

We distinguish great leadership by those persons who have the ability to decide what is right, not by some comparative analysis, but by what their heart tells them is best.

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“We won’t be distracted by comparison if we are captivated with purpose.” – Bob Goff (Lawyer, Speaker
– Joe Winokur (writer)

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