Several months ago our Wednesday night trivia team successfully answered a question about King Solomon, the wise King of Israel. Intrigued by his apparent wisdom I researched further and stumbled across the concept of self-distancing and specifically how it relates to better decision making.
The link to King Solomon is explained on the ‘psychologicalscience.org’ website by University of Waterloo psychological scientist Igor Grossmann ,who studies the nature of human wisdom and has labeled his research ‘Solomon’s paradox’.
During Solomon’s reign, people traveled great distances to seek his wise counsel, including the two mothers described in the parable arguing over the heritage of a baby. In contrast, Solomon’s personal life was littered with bad decisions and misjudgments that contributed to the eventual demise of the kingdom.
Using Solomon’s paradox Grossmann has been extensively researching why people often adopt broader and wiser reasoning about a personal dilemma that involves a third person rather than one involving themselves and what can be done to enhance this trait.
Grossmann defines wisdom as pragmatic reasoning that helps people navigate life’s challenges. Such wise reasoning requires transcending one’s egocentric point of view. This means recognising the limits of one’s own knowledge, acknowledging others’ perspectives, and seeing circumstances in flux—all of which allow for more complex understanding of social situations.
The results of his research clearly reaffirmed that people adopted Solomon’s paradoxical reasoning in becoming wiser if they practiced self-distancing.
I have since used this approach to great effect in some difficult situations that required broader thought.
It is not dissimilar from practising the idiom of ‘putting yourself in someone else’s shoes’ and reaping the benefits from another way of thinking.