When we first started GGT there were only 4 of us.
Me, Mike Gold, Mike Greenlees, and Goldie’s French secretary, Michelle.
Michelle was elegant and haughty in that French way.
Our tiny office was on the top floor of an old fashioned block in Jermyn Street.
There was no lift, just five floors of stairs to walk up.
The only other occupant was a diamond merchant on the floor below us.
His entrance was just a wooden door with a glass panel.
One day, the two Mike’s had gone out to see a prospective client and I was working in the office alone.
Michelle came back from lunch, haughty and aloof as usual.
In her strong French accent she said “Some people are really stupid? Pah”
I asked her what happened.
She said “The stupid man on the floor below. He is wearing a scarf and making eyes at me through the door. He thinks he is so funny trying to pick me up. Pah, I ignore him.”
I didn’t really follow her, but it sounded like the bloke below was wearing a scarf and making eyes at her.
It seemed strange, but it didn’t seem a problem so I ignored it.
About an hour or so later I heard a commotion and sirens on the street below.
I looked out the window and sure enough there were police cars in Jermyn Street and policemen rushing into our building.
It turned out the diamond merchant below us had been robbed.
They’d tied him to a chair and gagged him and emptied the safe.
After they left, he managed to drag the chair over to the door with the glass panel.
Just as Michelle was passing the door.
He saw her and tried to catch her attention, she saw the man gagged and grunting and rolling his eyes.
Except she didn’t, she saw what she expected to see.
What Michelle saw was a man trying to get her attention in order to pick her up.
Disguised with a scarf and rolling his eyes and making obscene grunting noises.
He was obviously some sort of pervert.
So, in her haughty French way, she ignored him and carried on up the stairs to our office.
Several hours later he managed to drag the chair across to the phone and dial 999, which was when the police turned up to release him.
He wasn’t a sex pest, he was trying to ask her to help.
But that wasn’t what Michelle saw.
We interpret everything through our preconceptions, it’s called Confirmation Bias.
Michelle was French, and consequently expected strange men who spoke to her to be trying to pick her up.
That was how she would interpret any approach.
She was doing what all of us do.
We actually form an opinion before we’ve heard the evidence, and the evidence is just reinforcement for that view.
It doesn’t provide any new information, it doesn’t change our view.
We aren’t even listening for new information, we’re only listening for confirmation.
The only purpose for talking is to change the other person’s mind, not to change our own.
Because being open to change is seen as weakness.
And changing our mind is always seen is seen as being fickle.
Instead of being open minded.
That’s why I prefer the reply that economist J M Keynes gave, when he was accused of changing his mind.
He said “Certainly when the facts change I change my mind. Why sir, what do you do?”