Do You Want to Get Out of Your Bubble?


We all live inside a bubble. Our own world view, attitudes, values, assumptions, beliefs, self-image and perspective on life. Our bubble filters what we see, what we hear, what we think and how we feel. We reinforce it when we’re around people like us. We enjoy the echo chamber of opinions like our own. We consume media that reflects who we are.


The bubble is comfortable. It insulates us, but it also isolates us.


If we reject new, different or contrary views, if we look away when confronted, or dig in, defending when contradicted, we cannot learn and grow. There’s no room. A single-minded insistence on “our truth” closes out communication and relationships.


Like so many things we do, the bubble is the brain’s way of protecting us. Ideas and opinions, even facts, that challenge what we “know” are perceived as threats to be resisted. The brain wants to preserve our status quo, it hates change, loves equanimity.


The response to threat can be managed by the executive brain. The executive brain in the neocortex evolved more recently than the emotional centre of the limbic system. It can override the reaction of fight or flight, triggered by our primal, survival instinct. The executive brain can recognise and quiet emotions that respond as if we are facing a life or death situation. It tells us: pause, take a breath, think.


It takes courage to get out of the bubble, to open one’s mind. There’s a risk. Moving from the known to the unknown means changing. The solid structure and support of strongly held beliefs is shaken, if their foundation is fractured. This, is why people fight to defend their beliefs. Challenging “what is known” can be terrifying to a brain that exists to keep us safe.


Yet the bubble is porous, it does absorb new information. It can be flexible, reshape to accommodate learning and growth. This happens through:


  • Evolution
  • Innovation
  • Connection
  • Deliberation
  • Communication, or
  • An epiphany


Evolution – a slow, gradual rearrangement of thinking takes place in response to a changing physical or social environment. Individuals come to accept ideas once denied. Almost everyone now thinks the earth is a roundish planet revolving around the sun, but that was unthinkable a few centuries ago.


Innovation – a new technology disrupts the environment but people adapt. Chimneys, electricity and mobile phones each changed the way people live.


Connection – linking what is known to something new. Teachers take pupils step-by-step toward knowledge and understanding. Learning the alphabet is a precursor to reading words. Stories, metaphors and analogies can illustrate a concept, building a bridge from something familiar to something novel.


Deliberation –  evaluating new information, sorting fact from opinion, reason from emotion. Suspending beliefs to deliberately and methodically examine what is known to draw logical, evidence-based conclusions.


Communication – from a simple input of information from a trusted source, to a dialogue that is an exchange of ideas, or a deep and intimate conversation that creates understanding. Speaking and being heard. Listening, silence and understanding.


Epiphany –  a spontaneous realisation, an “ah ha” moment that bursts as if from nowhere. Or, a slower reflective process. A profound insight dramatically changes thoughts and behaviour.


If you want to get out of your bubble, ask yourself:


  • What is your ratio of questions to statements in a conversation? Can you ask before you tell? Listen before you speak?


  • How well do you listen? Do you want to hear people, or are you really, just waiting for your turn to speak?


  • Can you be silent and let another talk? Can you encourage them and ask for more from them without interposing your thoughts?


  • How well can you disagree? Can you own opinions, beliefs, values as your own and acknowledge and accept other different views? Or must you argue to try to convert or convince?


  • Do you dominate conversation? Do you interpret silence as agreement?


  • Can you explore, collaborate, be interested in ideas that are alien to you?


  • When was the last time you admitted you were wrong? What did you do? How did you feel?


  • Can you be uncomfortable, confronted even offended and just allow yourself to be?


It takes effort and energy to tap your better self, to serve your higher purpose, to be open to expanding, developing, growing. The brain knows there is a risk because you may change your mind!





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About Ann Rolfe

Ann Rolfe is internationally recognised as Australia's leading specialist in mentoring, and is available for speaking, training and consulting. Here Ann shares her knowledge and allows you to ask your most pressing questions about mentoring.

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