How to Be Objective in Any Context

Manny Vallarino
Apr 30, 2018 · 3 min read

Context is at all times a combination of Agents and Situation; i.e., who’s involved and under what conditions. For example:

  • If your co-worker calls you at 2 a.m. to ask you for a favor, the Agents are you and your co-worker, and the Situation is the call.
  • If you get in an argument with your parents over who was supposed to feed the dog, even though it was 100% on them, the Agents would be your parents and yourself, and the Situation would be the argument.
  • If you go on a karaoke date, the Agents are you and your date, and the Situation is the karaoke date you thought of to impress your date with your musical skills, failing to remember the fact that you’re mainly an instrumentalist, not a rock singer, and proceeding to butcher “Don’t Stop Believing”.

You get the point. The issue is that in any context, Agents and Situation can often become so intertwined that it can be difficult to be objective about either element separately; hence, about the context as a whole. There are two things you can do to counteract this, depending on which element you want to focus on:

1. If you want to see an Agent or Agents with objectivity, leave the Agent(s) constant and switch out the Situation.

If you’re grabbing lunch at a great restaurant with your potential roommate, you might think “Hey, we get along great; surely we could share the rent!”

But if you switch out the Situation and instead spend a workweek living with your potential roommate, you might find that you’re annoyed by the strawberry jelly they eat with their bare hands and leave traces of on every doorknob, and all of a sudden you’re not so excited about sharing the rent with this person.

When you’re not sure how you feel about an Agent or Agents, leave the Agent(s) constant and switch out the Situation. Now, take another look.

2. If you want to see a Situation with objectivity, leave the Situation constant and switch out the Agents.

If your significant other always says this one thing that makes you feel terrible about yourself, then that’s okay because no partner is perfect and all relationships have their problems, right?

But if you switch out the Agent, your significant other, and instead it’s your co-worker who says that same thing, over and over again, you would probably say something, because why would you have to deal with that? By switching out the Agents, you can clearly see that you’re not in a good Situation.

When you’re not sure how you feel about a Situation, leave the Situation constant and switch out the Agents. Now, take another look.

So, how can you be objective in any context? Separate Agents and Situation, move them around, and see each objectively. Now, take another look at the whole context. Even if it’s still the same, your perception of it might not be.

“Be objective, dude.” — Aristotle, 2018

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