Like much of the UK I’ve avoided venturing outside into gales and floods this month, preferring instead to dedicate my evenings to watching The Traitors. Although I'm not really sure if this is a programme that anyone actually watches. More accurately, it's something to dissect and talk-over, pointing out follies and gullibility, mistakes and treachery. Crucial to its success is the implied invitation to place yourself at the heart of the shifting storyline and consider how you’d fare amidst the unfolding chaos. Would you make a good traitor? Would you suspect Harry? Would you be swayed by Zak’s confident logic or just banish him due to his bluntness?!
From the comfort of your own home, blessed with God-like omniscience of the full picture, it’s safe to assume that most viewers believe they would make smarter decisions than those on-screen. Likely because we’d consider ourselves to be rational, thoughtful creatures. But are we really?
'In a game of logic, we witness how people are unable to separate their impulses and emotional responses from their rational decision-making capabilities.'
Disappointingly, very few of us will ever get the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in a scenic Scottish castle being manipulated by the dastardly Claudia Winkleman whilst running around in the woods and proclaiming to be “100% faithful”, so we may never get to find out. Yet underneath the high drama and velvet cloaks, The Traitors reflects much more common aspects of our everyday relationships and judgement than the show’s contrived setting might suggest.
Amongst the many crocodile tears, duplicitous poisonings and moustache-twirling villainy, the height of the drama takes place at the round table. It’s in this scenario that human behaviour is at its most fascinating. In each confrontation, contestants repeatedly state that they are dealing in “facts” and “evidence”.
”That's all we have to go off.”
“I’m sorry, but those are the facts.”
“Your behaviour is a bit traitor-ish”.
“We’ve got to look at the evidence”
Facts. It becomes apparent how quickly that word loses its meaning and any sense of credibility.
What’s stated as objective fact is usually a subjective opinion. One that has been inadvertently shaped by years of environmental factors, social interactions and lived experiences.
At almost every turn, it's fascinating to see how an emotional reaction to an individual can trump logic. (As a prime example, see Diane citing Anthony’s suspicious, “traitor-ish” behaviour as the contestants gathered in a line outside the castle, before the traitors had even been selected!).
Likability is valued over analysis, personal connection over dispassionate scrutiny. You think I might be a traitor? Well guess what, I think you must be one! If you were to quiz any of these contestants about their decision-making, they’d swear blind that they were making a logical choice based on the facts available. As a viewer, we’re let into the secret that humans are more easily swayed than we’d like to believe. We see how gut-reactions override common sense, leading to flawed decision-making. We see how our own individual lens can distort our view of the world.
What fools these contestants are with their faulty logic and emotional decision making! But how does all of this play out in our own, less formulaic day to day?
One particularly useful analogy is that we all view the world from the peak of a mountain, one that is made up of our own experiences. My experiences are different to yours due to my childhood, my parents, my education, friendships and lifestyle. All these experiences accumulate over time to create my mountain. I stand alone on this vantage point. It’s from this unique position that I view the events of the world. My mountain is subtly different to yours.
This different perspective explains why we can often experience disconnections with colleagues, family members and friends. We are all witnessing the same event, but all from a slightly different angle. It's our perspective, rather than the event, that really matters. What is startlingly obvious to us, can look more complex from a different vantage point. Our reluctance to shift our position, or to view things from another mountain-top can lead to conflict…or indeed unjust accusations of being a traitor!
This is why The Traitors is so fascinating. Observations are made, of drinks being handed out, of whispered conversations in a hallway, of throwaway comments on car journeys, and immediately these facts are interpreted differently. What we confidently present to a group as ‘facts’ is often opinion. As former Michigan politician Bill Bullard Jr. famously stated:
“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.”
All too-often, conviction trumps truth. Something we see time and time again in business, in relationships, in politics and at a more enjoyable and frivolous level, on The Traitors. In a game of logic, we witness how people are unable to separate their impulses and emotional responses from their rational decision-making capabilities. “Displaying traitor-ish tendencies” is more-often an attack-line driven by personal dislike.
It’s difficult to appreciate a different perspective, especially when you’re faced with a situation you believe to be blindingly obvious. It’s something we all have to work on. Yet there is enormous power in building this skill.
Collective Brilliance is a learning programme that helps teams to understand themselves and their colleagues more thoroughly - identifying common ground, sharing blind spots, differences in perspective and individual strengths. This course helps teams of all sizes realise their collective strengths, identify their potential skill gaps, overcome collaboration challenges and create a more supportive and effective team culture.
Yet the real power of this course is that it encourages people to view things slightly differently and have a greater degree of empathy for those around them. The main feedback we receive whenever an attendee leaves the room is:
“I’ve never looked at it like that before!”
This is the route towards more empathy, better communication with colleagues, less fraught discussions with peers and smarter decision-making. Skills we all need if we are to succeed in work, or as a Faithful in the next series of The Traitors!
4and20Million help teams tackle the biggest challenges of modern work.
To discuss a course package that’s right for you, please contact Alex or Dan through the details below.