The Most Dangerous Lies are the Ones We Whisper in our own Ears

The danger of self-deception is it feels helpful while it blocks growth.

It’s surprisingly easy to feed ourselves a line of bull while demonizing dissenters, rejecting disconfirming realities, and affirming ourselves.

No high five:

A couple years ago, I asked my wife if I was a good listener. I fully expected her to give me a high five. Instead she said, “You could be better.”

At that point I almost proved her right by starting to explain why she was wrong. Fortunately I caught myself and confronted some wrong assumptions.

Self-deceived leaders deny the obvious and defend the ridiculous.

Symptoms and expressions of self-deception:

#1. Taking personal credit for success and assigning blame to others.

You choose to say “I” when things go well and “they” when things go poorly. If you don’t use “they”, you blame events or circumstances. “Things didn’t work out.”

#2. Inflating personal worth while devaluing others.

Chances are you believe you’re above average. I’ve read that 70% of us believe we are above average in good looks. 94% of college professors rated themselves above average relative to their colleagues.*

Self-deceived leaders:

  1. Misperceive how they’re perceived.
  2. Fall victim to flattery.
  3. Don’t have a problem with arrogance. (Sarcasm intended.)

5 ways to confront self-deception:

  1. Monitor your inner voice as it relates to others. Assume they’re doing their best until proven otherwise.
  2. Watch for the dark side of your strengths. If you’re great with details, you may be a stubborn jerk.
  3. Maintain confidence, but ask yourself, “What if I’m wrong?”
  4. Lean in when feedback surprises you. You’re out of touch if you can’t remember the last time you received “surprising” feedback.
  5. Practice saying, “I screwed up.” (You aren’t reaching high enough if you aren’t screwing up.)

If you think this post applies to someone else, you’ve fallen victim to self-deception.

What are some possible symptoms and dangers of self-deception?

How might leaders confront self-deception?

*CBS News