Believing Her Boss Who Said a “Safe Space” Was Indeed Safe: Nika Kabiri

Believing Her Boss Who Said a “Safe Space” Was Indeed Safe: Nika Kabiri


Check out all episodes on the My Favorite Mistake main page.

My guest for Episode #67 is Nika Kabiri, who describes herself as a “forward thinking, science-loving entrepreneur, author, public speaker, teacher, and researcher.” She's a decision scientist, who has her firm Kabiri Consulting, is on the faculty at the University of Washington Department of Communication, and is co-author of the book Money off the Table: Decision Science and the Secret to Smarter Investing.

Nika has a PhD in sociology and, while she earned the JD degree, she's not an “attorney” (that was my mistake in the episode — oops!!). She has over twenty years of experience studying how people make decisions in a variety of contexts, from business to politics to relationships, and she's an active writer with a lot of great insights to share. You can also find her at

Questions and topics include:

  • What do mistakes even mean?
  • Was law school a mistake?
  • What’s your favorite mistake?
  • Was it a mistake in thinking that the “Safe space” at work was really safe? But she was TOLD it was!
  • How does a decision scientist decide whether she should speak up or not?
  • Minimizing regret vs. maximizing possibility of good outcomes
  • Helpful to delay a decision when you can?
  • Forecasting the probability of outcome.. can’t predict the future… but we're craving certainty
  • Broader themes on misinformation… what do you trust? Stories? Data?
    • As people decide should they wear masks? Should they get vaccinated?
  • You’ve written about solutions to conspiracy theories… what can individuals do, what must society do?
  • Her article: Vaccine hesitancy: How much should we worry?

Scroll down to find:

  • Video
  • Enter to win a signed copy of Nika's book
  • Quotes
  • How to subscribe
  • Full transcript

You can listen to or watch the episode below. A transcript also follows lower on this page. Please subscribe, rate, and review via Apple Podcasts or Podchaser! You can now sign up to get new episodes via email, to make sure you don't miss an episode. This podcast is part of the Lean Communicators network.

Watch the Episode:

Enter to Win a Signed Copy


"Safe spaces aren't safe because somebody calls them so."

"[When] people are being described as vaccine hesitant, I think is more constructive language than vaccine resistant or vaccine denier."
"[Vaccine] hesitancy is not a static situation. It's dynamic. It can change. People can change their minds. If you reject them, you don't have that opportunity to change their minds."

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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban (0s):

Episode 67 Nika Kabiri, co-author of the book, Money Off the Table: Decision Science and The Secret to Smarter Investing.

Nika Kabiri (10s):

Yeah. I mean, how dare you call me an attorney? How dare…

Mark Graban (19s):

I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite Mistake. In this podcast you'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes because we all make mistakes, but what matters is learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again. So this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at For show notes, links, and a chance to enter, to win a signed copy of Nico's book. Go to MarkGraban.Com/mistake67, please follow rate and review.

Mark Graban (60s):

And now on with the show, our guest today is Nika Kabiri. She is among other things, an attorney. She has a PhD in sociology, so she's founder of her firm Kabiri Consulting. She's on the faculty at the University of Washington Department of Communication, and she describes herself as a forward-thinking science, loving entrepreneur, an author, public speaker, teacher, and researcher. She has over 20 years of experience. I'm studying how people make decisions in a variety of contexts from business to politics, to relationships. So Nika, thank you for being a guest today. How aYou? I'm fine.

Mark Graban (1m 39s):

Thanks for having me With all of that in your bio and on your plate. Thank you for I'm glad you could take time to record a podcast here.

Nika Kabiri (1m 48s):

Well, thanks. But I do have to say, I feel a little insulted that you called me an attorney. I'm not, I'm just kidding.

Mark Graban (1m 56s):

Was that it was, that, was that a career mistake?

Nika Kabiri (1m 59s):

I, you know, I never, I never took the bar. I never took the bar. And so I can't officially say that I'm an attorney or have ever been an attorney. I just graduated from law school and it's just, I'm just, it's just a joke. I mean, it's,

Mark Graban (2m 13s):

It's a mistake on my part because I see the letters J D after your name. So my mistake was okay, so you have the degree, but you okay. So I stand correct?

Nika Kabiri (2m 23s):

Yeah, but yeah, I mean, how dare you call me an attorney? I had a lot of lawyer friends. I work with lawyers a lot, but yeah,

Mark Graban (2m 35s):

I didn't mean it as an insult. That wouldn't be a nice way to start, but has got a new book it's titled money off the table. It's a guide to help you save for retirement in a way that minimizes risk and protects your money all through the lens of decision science. So I think we have a really interesting opportunity to hear your perspectives. And on this show, guests talk about decisions they've made. That's usually the basis for what we then describe as a favorite mistake. But the, the one part of Nico's bio I'm going to read here too.

Mark Graban (3m 15s):

It says she helps people get real move forward and minimize regret. So D does that minimize regret part mean help people avoid making mistakes or how do you even frame mistakes from, from your education and teaching and experience?

Nika Kabiri (3m 31s):

Right. And that's a great, great question because yeah. What does regret mean anyway? And it's, it's really hard. I think the perspective that I come from is that it's really hard to judge whether or not a mistake is a good one by the outcome, because it would assume that you have that much control over what happens in the world that you can, you know, you can have all your ducks in a row, make all the right choices. It's still possible that things don't quite turn out for you. And if, you know, if there's ever been a better example, it's business owners who, before COVID had everything figured out, they were making great choices.

Nika Kabiri (4m 15s):

They were on their way. And then, you know, things just for a lot of people didn't quite work out and it doesn't mean they made the wrong decision and it certainly doesn't mean they should feel regret. So I like to measure the success of a decision by how well that the process follows really objective steps, rather than being swayed by biases or mental shortcuts or, you know, going with your gut. I think if you go with your gut, generally speaking, I think that's probably not a good way to go. So we regret a lot of things that are out of our control. I, I can't help clients with that, but I can help them minimize the regret that can come from choices that they could've made better, but they didn't.

Mark Graban (5m 4s):

This is my regret for calling you an attorney and not doing a better job of researching

Nika Kabiri (5m 8s):

That's that's, that's fine. You know, that's a very human thing to do because you know, we often, we often assume that what we know is all there is to know, and it's very common. I mean, we do this every day, so yeah.

Mark Graban (5m 23s):

Well, I saw the letters J D and I jumped to a conclusion is, is, is I know you've written and shared about cognitive bias. Is that a fancy way of me for, for me to say I screwed up.

Nika Kabiri (5m 35s):

Yeah. It's it's it's you took a shortcut, you just took a shortcut rather than exploring or questioning you. You just assume that. And I mean, it could be worse. You could have assumed a lot of other things about me, which you did, and it's not, it's not the worst thing in the world to do, but it's not uncommon people call me. I mean, people that, here's where I worry about it. I give legal advice. Don't ask me for legal advice. That's the only way. That's the only reason it matters.

Mark Graban (6m 1s):

All right. But for decision advice though, there's a lot you can do, but so w when you talked about decision-making process evaluating that versus evaluating results, I, I think of sports and there's, there's one sports show that I listened to the ESPN ESPN. That's a Dan Le Batard show. And one thing they actually talk about a lot is so much of kind of inane sports talk is judging result was good. Therefore, it was a good decision result was bad. Oh, it was a bad decision. They're not evaluating the coaching process. They're there, they're judging off of the results.

Mark Graban (6m 41s):

So I know you're in Washington. Are you a Seattle Seahawks fan? Is this delicate territory? It don't get too.

Nika Kabiri (6m 48s):

I have to say, I'm not a huge football fan, but I know I'm not a huge Seahawks fan. Sorry, Seattle peeps. I coming from, I grew up in Houston, you know, and when I was a kid, the Oilers were everything. It's really hard for me to, yeah, the answer is no.

Mark Graban (7m 7s):

Well, so then this won't be as sensitive to you, but you may have heard from neighbors or friends or colleagues, a couple of Super Bowls ago, controversial decision at the end of the game to throw a pass from like the one or two yard line that pass was intercepted. Therefore everybody said, Pete Carroll, you're an idiot where if that pass had caught the Patriots defense by surprise for a touchdown, that same decision would have been lauded as brilliance. So there there's that.

Nika Kabiri (7m 35s):

Right. Right, right. Yeah. Pete Carroll can't predict the future. He can't predict what other players on the other team are going to do at any given moment. But again, it's, it's a really, it's a human hindsight is 20 when they say hindsight is 2020. They really believe that. I mean, I mean, it's really, there's, it's really true because the brain kind of tricks us into thinking that what we know now is something we've used to, we've always known and, or that was knowable. Even like some things just aren't knowable. I mean, that's one of the biggest lessons I try to tell my clients is that, you know, some things you just did not know at the time, some things you cannot possibly ever know, you can't be held responsible for that.

Mark Graban (8m 18s):

I guess then as a decision scientist, you haven't made any bad decisions and this will be a really short episode. Thank you for joining us today. Or do you, do you still, do you still have a favorite mistake story that you could tell?

Nika Kabiri (8m 30s):

I do. I want to say that like maybe 50% of my expertise in decision science comes from the scholarship and 50% comes from my own. Mess-ups like my experience. Yeah. I can share a bad, a favorite mistake. So this, you know, this happened when I was working in, in a company where we were kind of in a point of transition, like there's a point there's a, we were going through some management transitions and we had just done an employee satisfaction survey. And the results were very mixed.

Nika Kabiri (9m 10s):

Like some people were okay, some people were not okay. We had a huge meeting to sort of troubleshoot and you know how this goes, like everybody has to talk, we have to get in a room and just talk about our feelings. And, you know, it's an anonymous survey, but we still need to share. And it just kind of a really weird situation. And it was my turn to speak up. And I, I'm usually one in the workplace to be very, I practice restraint. I mean, I don't really tend to vocalize my dissatisfaction unless it's critical, critical to the functioning of the business. So if I think the business is going to suffer for it, I'll say something. If I'm suffering for it, I'll suffer in silence.

Nika Kabiri (9m 51s):

In that case, it was a bit of both. My manager specifically said, Hey, you know, this is the safe space. We are all, you know, being open and vulnerable. So Nika, please tell me what you feel could be done, what I could do better. And so I was very honest. I said, you don't respond to emails. I said, I emailed. And I said this in front of everyone. I said, I 

Nika Kabiri (10m 33s):

And so I'm stuck and I just need, you know, a quick response. And her response to me was, first of all, it extended beyond just the meeting. There were, there were, there was, I got feedback for weeks after that, but it was, you know, you don't understand Nika how busy a C level person is. You don't recognize how many emails we get every day. I can't respond to all of them. And so the reaction was like, as though I was complaining about something minor, I was making a big deal out of nothing. And I, and that I didn't understand. I was too naive to understand the situation, no big deal, except for that manager then made things very difficult for me in a lot of other ways, as a result of that, like, I think the feeling that I got was that I had, I had, she felt that I'd made her look bad because her, you know, there, the HR was in the room too.

Nika Kabiri (11m 27s):

She, she probably felt that I'd made her look bad and then somehow needed to let me know that regular basis didn't really respond to my emails, chewed me out for being a difficult person to manage, because I couldn't just manage myself. I needed to learn to manage myself. And, you know, some of the questions that I was asking her for her approval, I just be able to answer them myself. It was questions like, what's my role here? Like, there's a management transition. I don't know what my role is. And she was upset that I couldn't just figure it out on my own. Like she's never worked. She said at one point I had never managed someone so difficult and yeah, it just, it just taught me it's my favorite mistake because it really, really taught me what trust really means in the workplace.

Nika Kabiri (12m 19s):

What safe spaces really mean? Are they really safe?

Mark Graban (12m 23s):

And she said, quite literally, this is a safe space. Like those words came out of my mouth. And then, I mean, the feedback you gave, at least in your retelling of the story sounds relatively mild. Then, then this pattern of defensiveness criticism, throwing it back on you, retaliation like that, that hadn't been a pattern that started in response to you saying it sucks when you don't reply to her. Yeah.

Nika Kabiri (12m 49s):

That's from my recollection. And again, you know, my memory is also biased. It's my side of the story. I recognize that, but I still, my learning is still what it is, which is safe spaces. Aren't safe because somebody calls them so vulnerability, isn't something that you should feel comfortable volunteering. It's something that has to be earned. I think there's a lot of talk in the workplace about authenticity and vulnerability and bringing your real self to the workplace. And I think that the expectation is that you bring your entire real self, all of you completely vulnerable, and I've, I've spoken with people who've worked in environments where their employers actually expect that.

Nika Kabiri (13m 38s):

But I think I really learned that day that that's just not realistic and it's not fair.

Mark Graban (13m 43s):

So I'm curious what decision-making frameworks would be helpful. You were in a situation where I guess there's a decision of, do I speak up or do I just say no, I'm fine. Is it more dangerous? Like, was there an assumption I'm not faulting you for the assumption that she was saying it's a safe space, right? I mean, you know, it was, so you maybe on some level you regretted speaking up, so back to your bio and you talking about minimizing regret is minimizing regret kind of, you know, if that was your primary function, I guess we would err, on the side of not speaking up or there's a risk that we would regret not doing that.

Mark Graban (14m 27s):

So I guess there's a lot of questions here. How do you think through this is minimizing regret, the main goal, or sometimes do we need to think about maximizing the positive outcome,

Nika Kabiri (14m 38s):

But I think it's both. I think we're weighing both. And that's what risk analysis, which is a huge part of decision making and decision science. That's where that comes into play because you're really trying to forecast the probability. Any number of different outcomes could actually happen if you were to make a particular choice. And I want to believe, I'm sure this wasn't really what was going on, but I want to believe that in that moment I had the, the wherewithal to kind of objectively analyze the risks somehow. Like I, I, you know, sitting in that room in that meeting that perhaps I could have asked myself, okay, what is the possibility?

Nika Kabiri (15m 17s):

What is the likelihood that if I actually trust that this is a safe space and that I actually take that chance that it's going to turn out okay. For me, what's the risk there. And I think that's where a lot of us kind of go with our gut, which I did at that moment. Like I took a chance, I know I was taking a risk. I felt like, Oh my gosh, Nika, you're jumping off a cliff right now. You're just hope something will catch you, but we don't really slow down for a second. And even for a second and really analyze that risk and also weigh the risk of, or the, the trade-off of not speaking up, like what would have, what would have harmed?

Nika Kabiri (15m 57s):

How would it have harmed me if I didn't say anything in that room? What if I had chosen a different option? Like maybe spoken to her about it in private. I didn't slow down to think through that. Well enough. And so my regret was that that I didn't evaluate the risks very well. Yeah.

Mark Graban (16m 14s):

You were being put on the spot. Would it have been bad for you in some way, if you had kind of sat back and said like, no, I'm good. Thanks for fine. No feedback, no comment, nothing. I mean, you might've said it exactly that way, but

Nika Kabiri (16m 29s):

Yeah. You know, I used to work with the guy who was a very junior person and I managed him at a research firm. And I have to say, I learned a lot from this guy because anytime anybody asked his opinion, he would say, I'm not quite sure. I, I think there's a lot there. I need to think of, I think I need to think about this and he didn't lose respect for saying that. In fact, he got a lot of respect because people thought of him as being very thoughtful and, and for someone so young, I just felt so, so lucky to learn, you know, like from somebody not experienced, who hadn't been indoctrinated into this like world of business where we have to know the answer and we have to know it now you just spoke his mind.

Nika Kabiri (17m 9s):

He was like, you know, I don't know what I think there's nothing wrong with that. I think there should be more space and more permission to in business savings like that. And perhaps in that room, that could have been my option to say, you know what things, aren't great things aren't bad. I just need to think on this. You know, let me, let me think on this. And maybe I can, we can meet in private and I don't see anything wrong with that in most situations.

Mark Graban (17m 36s):

I mean, it sounds like, I mean, is that a helpful strategy to delay the decision in a way

Nika Kabiri (17m 42s):

It is a healthy, I think it is when the decision needs to be delayed. I have done that now. I've implemented that approach when I work with clients and they ask me something and I don't know the answer, or I feel like I'm treading on some tricky territory where I could put my foot in my mouth. If I have that feeling like I did that day where there's, there is kind of a weird response to, Oh, this is risky, right? Like we do have some innate kind of reactions to certain situations. And, but to not act on them as the trick and to just, you know, not always available, sometimes you're in an emergency situation you have to choose.

Nika Kabiri (18m 23s):

But I think more times than not, you don't have to, you can, you can give it a moment, sleep on it.

Mark Graban (18m 28s):

And it seems like big decisions. Like, should I take that job or not? Or should I put an offer in on that house? It's different. I mean, you know, back to your point, are you use the phrase forecasting, the probability of outcomes can't predict the future. So like what, what, you know, if you, if you make a decision to buy a house and the economy goes really downhill because of gosh, a pandemic that we didn't know, you know, some people would say, yeah, we knew this was coming. It was just a matter of when, but you can't be blamed for what you don't know. And, and I wonder how often people beat themselves up over, well, I should have known when maybe that's, that's unfair

Nika Kabiri (19m 10s):

All the time. I, and I see people do this with their relationships, like with romantic relationships. Oh, I saw the signs. I saw the red flags. I just chose to ignore them. My first reaction is, but did you though, did you really see them because in six month period, how can you know, everything there is to know about somebody to, to know whether they're right for you? Like some people keep learning about each other after 20 years and learning about themselves. Information is limited. And yeah, I kind of, I kind of doubt that, that we all know everything we, we should have known or we think we should have known.

Mark Graban (19m 44s):

So it seems like there are, there are knowledge issues when it comes to making decisions. What, what do we know? What can we know what's unknowable. And then there are questions around, you know, cognitive biases or how we get what information we get. So I'm, I'm, I'm curious to, if we explore a little bit, moving away from your, your career situation, talking about some, you know, societal issues where things are very polarized, people often get news and information from a polarized news source or website.

Mark Graban (20m 22s):

So, you know, what are your thoughts around somebody deciding what information is trustworthy and how that leads into our decision making about who to vote for, or let's say on a daily basis, should somebody wear a mask? Should somebody get vaccinated? And to be clear, I'm an advocate for wearing masks when you're around other people and I've gotten, and I hope other people do, but I mean, how, how do we make decisions? Or what are your thoughts on decision-making when different people are getting different information?

Nika Kabiri (20m 58s):

Yeah. It's it's, it's it's it's gosh, how do I say this without sounding too dramatic? Although it's very, very dramatic. It's the fact that there is so much misinformation out there is not just a big problem. It's like an Epic problem. It's a monumentally Epic problem. It's okay. It's not a big deal. If you have bad information about certain things, but when those things impact your decisions, when they factor into your cost benefit analysis, or when they cause you to just circumvent the cost benefit analysis altogether, because you want to, you know, go along with the bandwagon or you have a gut feeling or, you know, something that you want to do, or what have you, then misinformation can be very, very dangerous if those decisions have public health implications.

Nika Kabiri (21m 50s):

So, and yeah, I, I think that I just, I don't know why we, aren't more heavy handed with our, Oh, I see. I feel like I'm walking on.

Mark Graban (22m 7s):

Who's the, who's the we in that

Nika Kabiri (22m 9s):

Society. Like we, I think we permit certain platforms certain and free speed. You know, you can't free speech. This is where my law background comes in. Like free speech is a thing, but I think we don't have the, we don't seem to teach our kids how to discern or how to vet information properly. And we, I don't think in school learned how to do that. I think they're very important skills. We don't know, like all of us don't know, some of us obviously know better than others where we can actually tell what's the likelihood that this source of information is accurate versus not.

Nika Kabiri (22m 48s):

We just don't, we don't have that. And

Mark Graban (22m 52s):

So the government, I mean, you know, I'm speaking as an engineer, not an attorney, but my understanding of the first amendment is, you know, that, that restricts what the government can or cannot do in terms of restricting speech. A lot of societal pressure is basically the free market in terms, you know, private businesses can restrict what is said or not said, or society could shame. I mean, I is shaming, is, is that even a helpful strategy? Is we kind of Wade into that, shaming people for sharing certain information. I'm going to tell a quick story where I've been continually disappointed by one person I had known in professional circles, not gonna name his name, of course, but in some LinkedIn discussion, he waited in and on one hand, he threw out this blanket criticism that Americans don't have good, critical thinking skills.

Mark Graban (23m 46s):

And then two comments later, he was spreading complete trash men misinformation about how masks don't work. And the virus is too small to be blocked by mass. And like, dude, you don't know what you're talking about. This is easily discounted. It's just, it's frustrating. So I mean, I can call him out and I could choose to not do business with this person. That's the free market, but does that help? Like it, people double down on their misinformation based misunderstandings of things

Nika Kabiri (24m 20s):

They do. And I think people on all sides or both sides, if you, if you listen, if you listen to them, sometimes I had a conversation the other day with someone who is very much a on the other side of the political spectrum as myself, very different points of view, very different ideas of what reality is and what truth is and what really has happened. Just facts just don't line up with my understanding of facts. But when you hear him talk about critical thinking or questioning the press or being really skeptical and how it's our duty to really see through the BS, you could, I mean, it's, he sounded like I would sound like, like we are all from whatever side of the spectrum we're on.

Nika Kabiri (25m 6s):

Like we believe in that basic premise, like, don't just believe what's been w BS that's been fed to you. You know, you have to be discerning, you have to be careful. And yet they end up in these other places believing completely different things. And I think it really just comes down to, and I don't, if I'm answering your question or just going back to a previous question, you asked that there's this understanding of the laws of probability there's and that's what critical thinking is to me largely about thinking about conditionality and probability, like rather than black and white thinking and just believing like this guy I was talking to believing in his core that, that Derek Shogun is not going to be found guilty because he's absolutely innocent believing to his core thinking, well, under what conditions would a police officer in that situation, should they be found guilty or innocent?

Nika Kabiri (26m 2s):

And what's the probability that any of those conditions are going to happen. That line of thinking gets you closer to, I think the truth, you're never going to get the truth, but you can get a lot closer to it. And those skills are, I think, were, are, what's sometimes missing and kind of lead some of us astray.

Mark Graban (26m 18s):

And, you know, I think, you know, people get led astray by conspiracy theories. I saw something you wrote recently, Kevin asking this question about what, what can we do about that? You, you said something, I think this is a direct quote I pulled from that all people resist new evidence. It challenges their beliefs to varying degrees and reminded me of a Mark Twain quote. It's probably may have been actually said by him, it's easier to fool someone that is to convince them they've been fooled and that comes to mind a lot. So there, I mean, can you talk a little bit about the thinking patterns though, that lead to that, instead of just saying shame on you for being fooled and shame on you for doubling down, there is some fairly predictable behavior there,

Nika Kabiri (27m 7s):

Right? Yeah. You know, it's, it's interesting just how efficient the human brain is. I think a lot of our problems come down to the efficiency of the human brain. And why that's relevant to your question is, is that we often need to have, we need, we feel the need to make decisions right away when our brains are just wired to make decisions very quickly. You know, and as in childhood, during childhood development, our brain synapses form, they form certain patterns and path ways. And all of that, I'm not a neuroscientist. This is a very lay person description of it. But those, those are shortcuts that are, that are kind of developing.

Nika Kabiri (27m 47s):

And as we, one of those very, very important shortcuts to ensure efficiency and quick decision-making is the, it manifests in the sense that we know everything there is to know, and that whatever we possess in our, in our knowledge base in our heads, the memory we have experiences we have, and what we've heard that we already possess is plenty is plenty to do whatever we need to do. And so when we've already have all this information, when we have friends that are in queue and on, and we go to the websites and we hear this information or fascinated with it, and we don't already have a lot of information, we don't already know a lot about politics.

Nika Kabiri (28m 29s):

We don't know how the world works. And we're being told how the quote unquote world works. We are creating these information databases in our head. That is everything that we think there is to know. And when somebody comes along and says something completely different, it can't be right. It can't, they cannot, it cannot be right. That what you're saying, because I already know everything. I already know what there is to know. And if you're telling me something contradictory, you're being either disingenuous or you don't know the facts or you're part of the deep state or whatever it is. But yeah, confirmation bias is a real thing. It's a really dangerous thing. And that's why I really, I really like to encourage people to do the opposite of what we hear a lot in, in w w as far as advice goes in business, like, yeah, don't be confident, doubt yourself, assume you're wrong.

Nika Kabiri (29m 25s):

Don't be decisive. Those are things that can lead you down the wrong path.

Mark Graban (29m 31s):

And it seems like, you know, back to business for a minute businesses, crave, certainty, yes. In, of predicting results, what, what, what are your sales going to be this quarter? When is that product going to be released? Craving certainty then leads to all kinds of reactions like sandbagging and other things that are maybe harmful to the business. And organizations probably generally reward confidence in terms of deciding who to promote. And then that seems likely to spiral out of control a little bit as, as people who, you know, it's an expression sometime, you know, I'm usually right.

Mark Graban (30m 17s):

Sometimes wrong, never in doubt, there's some expression, something like that.

Nika Kabiri (30m 22s):

It's unfortunate that that's, that's the norm. And it's, it's not that way in other cultures. So it doesn't, it doesn't have to be that way in cultures like Japan, there is a lot of uncertainty and decision-making, they reckon it's, it's a cultural kind of norm to take time making decisions where decisiveness isn't really rewarded. And where, you know, here in the United States, the boss is, you know, the person who makes the choice and what he says goes, but he can pivot anytime time he wants. Cause that's that's his out or her out. But in other cultures, there's more consensus forming their decisions. There's, there's less rush to make decisions.

Nika Kabiri (31m 4s):

So it's not necessary to, to have to run a good business and be profitable and have these trades. I think it's more of a cultural, culturally normative expectation. That's not really correlated with success or performance.

Mark Graban (31m 20s):

And some of that culture, I think, is organizational where in some organizations, if you, if, if you're asked a question in, you were to say, I don't know, that would be a huge strike against you where I, I appreciate style of leadership that would not be S anyone and say, you know, I, I don't know, let's figure it out. Or I don't know. Let's go look into,

Nika Kabiri (31m 42s):

Yes. I mean, I had a manager who told me exactly that, that I lacked confidence because I didn't have prescriptive, direct decisive recommendations that, you know, as a researcher, you talk in probability, you talk in, perhaps this it's more likely to do that. I'm giving you the straight up answer. There's no black and white, the world is non-black and white. And yeah, that was interpreted in that way, in my case as well, which kind of hurt my career a little bit for a moment. Not too long ago. Yeah.

Mark Graban (32m 12s):

Well, and I would say that was perhaps their mistake. Yeah. I think sensations that, that, so, so, so back quick, follow-up though, let's say, you know, the, the, the colleague or the family member, who's gotten deep down some conspiracy rabbit hole. Is there anything we can do about it? That's constructive saying you're wrong. You're an idiot. Isn't likely to be helpful here. You should read this. They might not even read it. Like what, what can, what can or should you do?

Nika Kabiri (32m 45s):

Yes, because back to the whole, the point I was making about the efficient brain, everything, you know, is all there is to know, you cannot convince people with facts because they already have all the facts. They already know everything there is to know. And some of the facts they know are that anybody who contradicts their facts as part of the problem. So it's kind of rigged against you. I've, I've seen or heard of people pulling away as a, as a response. I just want to address that. I think that that has a tendency of creating the kind of polarization that would exacerbate the problem.

Nika Kabiri (33m 24s):

And I, I really, it's very, very, very, very hard to maintain a close relationship to someone when you aren't a Q Anon supporter and they are, it's, it's very challenging and difficult. But when you do, when you do pull away and you allow for it to happen, you're really cutting them off from information experiences that, that do contradict what they already believe. And sure they might not have their minds changed if you parade facts in front of them. But the future is kind of unpredictable.

Nika Kabiri (34m 2s):

The conspiracy theory itself could fall apart. And in that moment, if you're not there to kind of be a support when their whole world crumbles, you know, you're missing out on an opportunity to change their minds and to influence the way they think. And sometimes your personal experiences or stories could be much more powerful to share with them than facts. Because one thing that people really do respond to and remember, and use to drive their decision-making are elaborate memorable, interesting stories, which is why conspiracy theories are so attractive, because if there are anything, they're interesting stories.

Nika Kabiri (34m 44s):

So, yeah, I think that's really, I think that's where people should start. Just, don't break up with your friends, just hang in there and see what happens.

Mark Graban (34m 54s):

That's that's food for thought, because there are some cases, friends, or, you know, people from professional circles that I've felt like crossed the line of being, you know, just crossing a line where I'm like, I don't want that in my life. I don't want to be exposed to that, but you're, you're making me think of like disconnecting or blocking. Somebody could end up being counterproductive as far as, as opposed to using tools where let's say you mute somebody, you don't see what stuff they might be spewing and you, whatever social media feed it is, but you're not completely separated from them.

Mark Graban (35m 36s):

Yeah. Or,

Nika Kabiri (35m 37s):

Or maybe adjust. This is, again, this is really hard to do. I find it hard to do, but maybe adjust your perspective in that you are, you are, you know, don't mute them, but just absorb what they're telling you is information about them. It's not savory information and it may not be comfortable information, but information and knowledge is power. And if you, if you know who this person is, then you're in a better position to influence their decisions or to influence their perspective. Then if you really have no idea, yeah.

Mark Graban (36m 13s):

If, if, or when they're open to it, I guess, and the same may be true. And this is where I think there is in a way useful language in the medical field. And I think a lot of this then goes into the media where people are being described as vaccine hesitant, I think is more constructive language than vaccine resistant or vaccine denier. Because when there's hesitancy, like not, not everybody could be vaccinated first. And there are some people that are maybe just holding back. And then as we see more and more evidence that this is on the whole safe and it's safer than not doing it, people may come around.

Mark Graban (36m 56s):

So I guess we have to be careful about not hailing and aiding them in the meantime.

Nika Kabiri (37m 1s):

Totally. I actually wrote an opinion piece that was published in The Hill on exactly this, that hesitancy is not rejection. It's not apathy it's. And if you look at the data from late last year to today, the proportion of people who are saying, yes, I'm going to get vaccinated has increased. So there's a trend in the positive direction, which means hesitancy is not, it's not a static situation. It's dynamic. It can change. People can change their minds. If you reject them, you don't, you don't have that opportunity to change their minds.

Mark Graban (37m 38s):

Good food for thought. I will link to that article and a couple of others in the show notes, Nika Kabiri has been our guest. Her book is called money off the table. I'm sorry. We didn't really get into the book at all, but I hope people will go and check that out. You can find her online No, no mistakes on those websites right now. And like I said earlier, so you'll, you'll wear the label of sociologist.

Nika Kabiri (38m 14s):

Yes. I will probably wear that label.

Mark Graban (38m 18s):

I should have introduced you as a sociologist, but no, I mean, it was my, it was my mistake and it's fair game. And I, I generally, I don't edit out my mistakes. So, so it goes, final question. I'm going, throw it, throw at you was going to law school, the mistake, or did you just make a different decision later?

Nika Kabiri (38m 39s):

I think about that all the time. I'm not even sure it was my decision. Honestly. I think it was my parents' decision at the time and finishing, I wanted to drop out after the first semester and finishing was their decision. So sometimes that's how it goes too.

Mark Graban (38m 54s):

All right. Gosh. All right. So I don't think I stepped in it as badly there at the end as I, I did at the beginning. Well, Nika, thank you for being a guest today and sharing your thoughts on decision-making. I feel like we've just scratched the surface of your experience and your expertise, but thank you for sharing that with you. You do a lot of writing. I mean, you're, like I said, you're, you're super busy, so thank you for taking time to be a guest here.

Nika Kabiri (39m 21s):

Oh, it's my pleasure. It's great to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Mark Graban (39m 25s):

You're welcome. Thanks again. Thanks Nika. And I think you'll really want to check out her book and you can go enter to win a signed copy by going to If you liked the episode, please share it on social media, especially LinkedIn, send it to a colleague or a friend that would really help. I hope this podcast inspires you to reflect on your own mistakes, how you can learn from them or turn them into a positive I've had listeners tell me they've started being more open and honest about mistakes and their work. And they're trying to create a workplace culture where it's safe to speak up about problems, cause that leads to more improvement and better business results.

Mark Graban (40m 6s):

If you have feedback or a story to share, you can email me And again, our website is myfavorite

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.