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Objectivity principle

Principles > Objectivity principle

Principle | How it works | So What



Standing back decreases emotion and increases logic.

How it works


Have you ever been in a conversation where the other person said something like 'Let's look at this in another way. If you stand back and look at the problem objectively, it seems less important.' ? Taking an objective stance has a calming effect, helping people to see things as they really are or from a different viewpoint.

Objectivity works in two ways. First, it helps to remove emotion, allowing people to think more rationally. The other use of objectivity is that it provides neutral territory that allows an equitable discussion to take place. 

When we say 'be objective' we typically mean a number of things:

  • Be unemotional, not getting agitated or distressed in any way.
  • See things as they really are, not from a personally biased viewpoint. 
  • Be neutral, understanding both points of view.

An objective viewpoint is thus more realistic, fairer and far more likely to be result in an agreeable resolution to human differences. 


Objectivity is the opposite of subjectivity. A person who has a subjective viewpoint sees things only from their own position, complete with all biases, internal mental models and so on.

The problem with a subjective point of view is that it is invariably different from everyone else's subjective viewpoint. 

Removal of emotion

Think of a time when you were upset or angry. Relive the experience, seeing things through your own eyes again. Notice how you start to re-experience the emotions. Now imagine floating out of your body and looking down on the scene. Notice now how the emotions are less.

Standing back and literally seeing the situation from an external viewpoint has the very useful property of removing emotion. This is a very helpful tool for calming people down and assisting them to think more rationally.

Neutral territory

A big attraction of an objective viewpoint is that it is neutral territory on which both people can meet. In particular, it plays to our need for fairness

The neutrality of an objective view lets us both look from the same position, and if we cannot do this then at least we can get someone else to do it. This is the role played mediators, judges and other intermediaries who stand in the third place.

The third position

In a conversation or relationship there are three positions. The first position is me, my subjective self. The second position is you, the other person, and your subjective viewpoint. In argument and discussion we tend to see only these two positions. But there is a third.

The third position is the objective viewpoint, as a neutral observer watching the discussion from outside. Anyone watching the conversation is, of course, in the third position. Either or both of the participants can also find this third position.

So What

When you are being wound up or drawn into a discussion, take the objective third position. Stand back and look down on the situation. Take time to understand both yourself and the other person.

You can do the same for the other person, helping them to take a more objective position. You can also do the reverse, dragging the other person down into the subjective and emotional position from which they cannot see what is happening in the bigger picture.

See also

Logic principle

Thinking vs. Feeling, Third Side, Emotions

Theories about decision-making

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