By Raunak Onkar | [email protected]

We use language to think. The grammatical elements of any language help us express our thoughts better. That can pose a problem while thinking with incomplete information. In that case our emotional state can sway us into believing our own thoughts.

Take investing in stocks for example. It is a guarantee that no matter how well researched the investment idea is we are bound to have some gaps in understanding. We have no choice but to allow for some margin of error to protect us from any temporary setbacks.

One way would be to know our biases but that’s a theoretical solution. To reach a more practical solution we need something that is easy to test & which applies across all our thinking.

There are two very simple ways that work well.

  1. Get the facts right: While researching an idea it is best to know a few key things that will make the idea work. It is useful to check, double check & even re-check the validity of those key parameters before taking the plunge. Knowing these facts will make us confident in our choice, unlike anything else.
  2. Don’t use adjectives & adverbs: While thinking / writing down the reason for investing in a particular stock we must not accept any help from the rich vocabulary of adjectives & adverbs that come with our languages. If we eliminate those phrases from our thought we force our language to focus only on the facts. And another benefit is, this works in any language.

Adjectives & adverbs allow our mind to paint our thoughts. They bring in different moods & unravel layers of what we are thinking. It is dangerous to rely on these tools of language when we are excited, especially after discovering the next best stock. As you may have noticed they add an emotional variety to our ideas that is rarely useful for rational decision making.

Language is the medium of thought & this innocent misstep of adding unwanted flavour to an objective thought can sway us into strongly believing in our own ideas. Sometimes more than necessary.

A certain amount of confidence is required to hold our ground during volatile times, but let that confidence be drawn from the data rather than from our ability to describe the data.

(The underlined words above – innocent, unwanted, objective & strongly are adjectives & an adverb, respectively. They make the sentence more plausible because of the association of those words in our mind. They make the idea more vivid & worse, it all happens subconsciously)

The same sentence without the adjectives & adverb is as bland as a spreadsheet, but none the less, true.

“Language is the medium of all thought & this misstep of adding flavour to a thought can sway us into believing in our own ideas.”