It’s no surprise that all of the Monday morning quarterbacks have shown up in full splendor today, following the biggest comeback in Super bowl history. Full disclosure: I’m a lifelong New Englander, but promise not to say something like “Hellooooo, haters," or “we’re wicked awesome” in a thick PAAHHK the CAAAH Boston accent between sips of Dunkin’ Donuts.
In case you didn’t know, a Monday morning quarterback (MMQB) is a person who criticizes, passes judgment, and offers hindsight solutions to problems. They are very easy to find today across talk radio, TV, and social media feeds.
They should’ve done this or that. Why on earth didn’t they see it? They made such a textbook mistake. It’s all SOOO obvious. OMG.
Psychology can help explain why hindsight bias is such a trap for us. That feeling that “we knew it all along” arises from our tendencies towards creating stories that make sense based on the information we have. Researchers Neal Roese and Kathleen Vohs suggest that our desire for closure makes us apt to promote a positive view of ourselves. We get all puffed up, even when the conclusions we draw are incorrect.
Hindsight bias can prevent us from learning from experiences, or taking a deeper dive into the forces at hand, and coming up with a more accurate analysis of what’s transpired.
Most of us are not professional sports players, with millions of eyes on us, but we’ve all faced our own versions of MMQB’s, jousting us with “I told you so’s” and “what were you thinking’s”. Worse, many of us struggle with our own pesky inner MMQB that constantly needles us through the play by play of our lives.
I should’ve never done that. Why didn’t I realize it at the time? How stupid can I be?
While reflecting on mistakes is a vital part of our growth and progress, all the "shoulding" that comes from our inner MMQB can sabotage happiness and wellbeing. Here’s how to fire a reactive, overly critical MMQB, and replace with a more rational, wise one:
1. Silence your inner hater. Do you tend to call yourself names, instead of cutting yourself some slack? Do you take a disproportionate amount of blame in a situation that’s gone wrong? Do you feel a constant sense of under accomplishment, no matter how much you’ve done? These are red flags that your inner MMQB needs walking papers.
2. Review the tape. Do you think every move you’ve made has gone wrong? Do you see your mistakes as catastrophic with no room for learning? Your MMQB might be going purely off the amygdala, the mechanism in your brain that regulates fear responses. Take a needed break to regroup and revisit once the frontal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for reason, has time to review the play more accurately.
3. Stay agile. Do you feel a sense of dread and doom? Does it seem like there’s no way out? Stay on your toes, and be ready to pivot away from original conclusions you have drawn. Train your inner MMQB to rethink first glances, and check for new alternatives and approaches to the problems you face. Be on the lookout for opportunities to change directions. So much falls out of the realm of our control, and while we can’t always win, we can learn to adapt and stay in the game for the long haul.
Hindsight might not be as 20/20 as we’d like. If your inner MMQB has become obnoxiously full of unsolicited, negative advice, now is the time to fire and rehire one that is more rational, compassionate and nimble.