As people we are selective about the information sources we listen to, and then selective about what we read, and selective about what we believe, and selective of what we share with others. We get a slice that reenforces our belief system.
And, before we even hear the news, or a research report, or a description of a situation, the information is filtered through those doing the reporting or the research.
Some places where information can get distorted
Interviewers: What are their beliefs going into the situation? How are they designing the research and the interview questions to reinforce those beliefs?
Interviewees: Are they honest and forthcoming? Are they providing accurate responses, or what they feel the interviewer wants them to say?
Writers: Are answers transcribed accurately? Does the report give a valid account of the main findings of the research/interviews? Does the report provide a full picture? What is the “truth” vs the (un)intentional (mis)direction provided by interviewers, interviewees, and writers?
I recently witnessed two people taking notes on a small group discussion. As they looked at the summary of their notes, they started editing out things they didn’t want to be brought up and deleted some of their notes. Just because an item doesn’t align with your strategy or your talking points or your hypothesis, doesn’t mean that voice shouldn’t be recorded.
If I’m observing a group or conducting an interview, I’m pretty good at capturing an accurate picture of what was said. But if I have a vested interest in a meeting — e.g. as a board member or other active team member — I am a HORRIBLE secretary/note taker. I will take notes based on what I think people are trying to say. I will finish sentences before they have been spoken. I will pause when I don’t agree with something, and ask a question of the speaker that might result in notes not being taken.
Do you do research or reporting? How do you check your biases or hopes or opinions as you prepare information to share with others?