“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”
― Walter Scott, Marmion
“People trust their eyes above all else – but most people see what they wish to see, or what they believe they should see; not what is really there”
― Zoë Marriott, Shadows on the Moon
“Lies, all lies I tell you!” Have you ever been the victim of lies? Have you ever been caught in a lie? Who hasn’t is probably the better question but we’ll get into that question in a second.
I’ve been revisiting one of my favorite leadership books of all time, Self Deception and Leadership. I usually have my classes read this book as well as many of my clients in order to improve teamwork and relationship building as well as individual performance. There are good books and then there are GOOD BOOKS! The simplicity with which this book delivers a simple, yet powerful, message is truly amazing.
You see, we (both you and I) have a problem. The worst part of it is that we don’t know we have this problem. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal except that this problem always occurs when we interact with other people. Unless you’re a dedicated hermit, YOU HAVE THIS PROBLEM AS WELL!
I’m sure many of my readers have seen the movie, The Matrix. If you haven’t seen it, stop what you’re doing and go rent this movie. [SPOILER ALERT… here’s the clip i’m referring to if you just want to see it]. So, consider what happens when Neo was introduced to the choice of taking either the blue or red pill. One choice would have allowed him to continue living his normal-yet-not-quite-satisfying life as usual. Choosing the other pill would bring an unknown possibility that was being promoted by a relative stranger whom Neo only knew as a fellow computer hacker extraordinaire and outside-the-box thinker (some would say rebel). Neo desired more out of life than he was experiencing but wasn’t sure how to get it nor whether it was even worth pursuing.
Many of us are in the same boat. We go from day to day assuming that the world around is all there is or ever will be. History indeed seems doomed to repeat itself. This robs people of hope and creates a very dissatisfying life. For people brimming with thanksgiving and joy in their life, they’re probably having a great time. But for others, well, things aren’t so great.
We grow up as most children do thinking that there is no limit or boundaries to what we can do or where we can explore. However, at some point we start to experience the dreaded arrival of resistance. It may come in the form of imposed restrictions from our parents (rules or discipline) or just fear of the unknown (ie, the monster underneath my bed). The older we get, the more these imaginary boundaries become reality to us (at least in our perception of the world). Unfortunately, what we don’t realize is that other people don’t necessarily share the same views and therefore lack the “conviction” that we have in how the world should operate.
Nowhere is this more destructive than in the realm of marriage. A husband and wife may spend the entire lifespan of their marriage trying to change the other spouse because they’re so convinced of how right their own perspective is. That’s a topic for another day but serves as a good illustration. In both my premarital counseling and relationship coaching scenarios, I like to ascertain the personality types of the two individuals considering the possibility of making their relationship stronger and more satisfying. A person’s worldview and preferences are essential to know in the personal coaching world.
Work is another place where you see self deception in full bloom. We are completely unaware of how our attitude and actions can negatively affect others. In Self Deception and Leadership, they describe the predicament of treating others like an object as being “in the box“. People find it easy to mistreat what they perceive as inanimate objects. With practice, people can eventually learn to mistreat and manipulate animate objects and that’s when things go bad for everyone involved. Have you ever witnessed this in your job environment?
One area this happens in the fitness industry (and any other place where the physicality of our bodies is the main emphasis of interaction) occurs when we stare at people we find attractive and take it further by lusting after them. I’ve heard many trainers over the years make comments about people that they would be ashamed to repeat in front of their mother.
So, the box is a tricky thing. Once we get in, it can be hard to get out. We usually bring others in with us and wonder why everyone is acting so upset. I won’t spoil the fun of this book but it truly is enlightening to learn how much ALL of us relate to the main character of the book…we all have a problem (and usually have no idea that we do)!
If you have ever wondered why you seem to have difficulties in certain relationships, I would suggest reading this very easy book. Most people seem to have a penchant for defensiveness when someone suggests we are doing something wrong or in an ineffective manner. If we were to respond differently, cohesion and productivity would skyrocket in the workplace as well as in the home. This is one of the primary reasons for uncovering the “lies” or self-deception. We end up lying to ourselves and don’t realize it and by simply coming clean with the truth…our relationships become amazingly more powerful and fulfilling.
This diagram below describes the process by which most adults learn something they believe may or may not be “true”. I have discussed this in previous articles about adult education so feel free to read other articles to discover how you can benefit by embracing critical reflection in your life.
Have a great week and feel free to contact me with questions about this article or consulting ideas.