Selective thinking
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - February 2, 2020 - 12:00am

I like basketball. Many of us do. It is not unusual for me to see business leaders or corporate executives tease each other about the color of the school teams engaged in a varsity tournament. What fascinates me is that they would even take off work early and go watch the games. That’s how they love basketball. And others do not understand it.

Comedian Dave Barry says: “I haven’t been able to slam-dunk the basketball for the past five years. Or, for the thirty-eight years before that, either.” 

Woody Allen says: “What is so fascinating about sitting around watching a bunch of pituitary cases stuff a ball through a hoop?”

Somebody says: “Any boy can be a basketball star if he grows up, up, up and up.” 

Even basketball coaches and superstar players would take a funny crack at the sports. 

Coach Norm Sloan, on zone defense says: “I hate it. It looks like a stickup at 7-Eleven. Five guys standing there with their hands in the air.”

Another coach apparently disappointed with his team said, “We have a great bunch of outside shooters. Unfortunately, all our games are played indoors.” 

Coach Norm Stewart says: “We’re shooting 100 percent - 60 percent from the field and 40 percent from the free-throw line.” 

Phil Jackson on strategy says: “If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball.” 

And then the celebrated superstar Wilt Chamberlain: “They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.” 

I used to play basketball when I was in High School. There were times when the game would not end the match, but the game ended in fights - especially when we were losing. What I remember today is my constant disagreement and arguing against the referee’s call when it was against me. As if the outcome would change. “Referee’s decision is final!” That was always the cry! And so after the game and on certain occasions, I would still seek out the referees and continue the argument, and on certain occasions broke out into fights. Those were the days that I still shudder with embarrassment when I think of it.

When we think more in-depth about this, sometimes the player continues to argue with the referee even when it was apparent to everyone that the call was correct. And with today’s technology especially after being shown a video replay in slow motion of the game, the player would himself or herself be surprised at how wrong the perception was and how right the call was made.

And then Richard (Dick) Innes explains the reason why. Innes says: “The mind is like the eye. The moment a foreign object threatens to intrude, the eye closes. The mind does the same. It will close to anything that threatens a person’s self-esteem, his lifestyle, his firmly held attitudes, values, and beliefs, and to anything that is not relevant to his felt or perceived needs and wants.” Innes calls this selective exposure, selective attention, selective comprehension or perception, selective distortion, and selective retention.

* Selective exposure shows that people are only open to messages they want to receive.

* Selective attention shows that people hear only what they want to hear.

* Selective comprehension or perception shows that people will perceive things the way they want to see them.

* Selective distortion shows how people change messages to match their self-concept or twist them to match their misguided perception of reality.

* Selective retention shows that people remember only what they want to remember.

This is why somebody says, “We never see things as they are, we see things as we are colored by our belief system, worldview, cultural orientation, education, etc.”1 To counter this, we need to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves so that the truth would not be distorted. Another skill we need to develop is to master our moods and emotions and to withhold judgment until we see all the facts. This is why leaders need to develop their critical thinking, hone and improve their communication skills and emotional intelligence. 

Truth is truth whether we like it or not and it has to be told accurately and understood correctly. And of course, to stop fighting the referees, especially when they are right.

(Francis Kong’s Level Up Leadership 2020 Edition workshop-seminar runs on March 11-12 at Makati Diamond Residences. For further inquiries or reservations contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at

1 Selective Attention - Actsweb.

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