Thursday, 1 September 2011

Doubt - The silent de-motivator!

During years in business and consulting, there is one character that I meet time and again... the "Doubting Thomas". Found in all walks of life; work, home and community, he/she stands out from the crowd! Yes I'm sure we all have met this kind of person, when we were young to the present day, they usually vocalise unwavering belief in their viewpoint until it is proven otherwise. People who behave like this seem to need concrete evidence and hard proof so as to be convinced.

As with the name "Doubting Thomas", many of us know that it's a term that is used to describe someone who will refuse to believe something without direct, physical, personal evidence. Another label is that of a skeptic.
  • The term comes from Thomas the Apostle in the Bible. Thomas was a disciple of Jesus who doubted Jesus' resurrection and demanded to feel Jesus' wounds before being convinced. After seeing Jesus alive and being offered the opportunity to touch his wounds, only then did Thomas believe. After this encounter, Thomas was also called Thomas the Believer. 
  • If you refer to the dictionary, it defines doubt as a status between unbelief and disbelief, it involves uncertainty, or distrust, or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision. Doubt brings into question some notion of perceived reality, and may involve delaying or rejecting relevant action out of concerns for mistakes or faults of appropriateness. It may encourage people to hesitate before taking action. Doubt can sometimes serve to create individual anxiety and to even shield the vision of an unpleasant outcome.

I know many people that do and will say that doubting can serve a good cause; there is this inner Reality that alerts you that something in not right or someone is not telling the truth about an incident. We all need to experience this type of doubt, because in a court of law, as you very well know, jurors must convict, or decide the innocence of a person "beyond a reasonable doubt".

As I have pointed out in past posts, in terms of our outlook on life and how we behave, we all build our Reality by filtering what we see, hear and feel, through internal filters that create (unconsciously) our perceptions. It is important and not in the slightest over-exaggerating, to talk about the negative aspect of doubt in terms of paranoia and the sowing of doubt - which are both negative and dangerous. Hiding under the "mask" many people present to the world, often this type of doubt takes on a totally gruesome face, where a person is so overwhelmed with doubt and unbelief that it causes problems in making everyday decisions and disturbs living a normal, healthy life. This face of doubt is jam-packed with unbelief, and it's a cousin of "worry". Doubt and unbelief can hold you back and stop you from achieving your goals. People can actually have no faith in anything, and it's difficult for them to believe anything. It is easy then to imagine the knock-on effect that can become very destructive to groups and their Reality of hitting targets, goals, outcomes.

Within any organisation or gathering, "Doubting Thomas" is a listened to behaviour unconsciously and impacts upon all around (the ears pick up what is being said without us knowing and we filter what is being said through our minds in terms of needs, values and belief systems). If an individual or group listening currently happen to be disillusioned, anxious, fearful or perhaps have a human need that seeks consistency in life, then without us even realising it, we have an automated unconscious mind-set developing that will create some very unusual dynamics and behaviour.

Something To Consider!
When were you last in the presence of "Doubting Thomas?". Have you previously considered the impact this behaviour and it's mind-set has on the individual and group? I constantly tell people I meet about each person building their Reality of life through their experiences and pre-assumed filters. Doubt is healthy, but needs to be better understood in context and always challenged, so as to secure the full and detailed reasoning and basis for it.

Make Sure!
When in group dynamics, Doubt needs to be understood, so as to control the unconscious knock-on. Taking the time to understand the way people have built their Reality, is the key to addressing whether there is a valid or invalid reason for Doubting or whether it is based upon another emotion or perception deeper inside. Simple and effective questioning will determine where the Doubt is being created, what it is based upon and whether it is a powerful influencer on behaviour. By leaving Doubt un-challenged, impacts ongoing behaviour and perception forming (ever met the eternal pessimist?) in an individual and impact upon the wider group objective or motivation.

Until next time..............



  1. Isn't doubt too much of a generalisation.

    In the case of Thomas, isn't it fair to say he questioned what he was told and when it was proved to him he accepted it and believed it?

    Too many people accept what they are told, or say the right things to gain acceptance (yes men). Far better to question things but accept them when given explanations/assurances etc.

  2. Thanks for your comment. Totally agree,doubt is a human instinct and also can be a positive response mechanism. However, as I said in the last paragraphs, simply question around the basis for the doubt to ensure it doesn't generate from non-related perceptions/fears/etc, also to be aware of the knock-on of it in project, tactical and change situations.


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