Your First Instincts Can Steer You Wrong

In a recent interview, Princeton Professor Betsy Levy Paluck made a case for not fully trusting your first instincts. “We rush to simplify,” she said, drawing boundaries around our team and trying to make sense of a situation by justifying what’s right for ourselves.

In such moments, our gut reaction can feel right. We find satisfaction in quickly judging and convincing others of our point of view without fully understanding. Her advice, and mine, recognizes that our initial reactions can be fraught with stereotypes and discriminatory thinking.

When you feel your shoulders rising toward your ears because of something someone said or did, take a few deep breaths. Don’t immediately go with your gut instinct. Learn to slow your reaction and think through other possible reasons for someone’s words or actions. Give your rational brain time to catch up with your automatic, instantaneous fight or flight response.