Inner/Outer Congruence

As humans, it is unavoidable and in our nature to be hypocrites (see the Hypocrisy of Hypocrisy). Therefore, one of our biggest challenges in our journeys to become our better selves is aligning our inner intentions and goals with our behaviors. Whether we strive to be a good leader, kind, compassionate, fair, strategic, loving or generous, sometimes we are our own worst enemy towards consistently being that person both inside and out.

When life is good and stress is low, that consistency feels relatively straight-forward and achievable. However, add in a dose of fear or uncertainty, and ignite it with a dollop of lack of self-awareness, and it’s pretty easy to see how we may start acting at odds with our core values and beliefs.   Add a touch of arrogance, and now we’re defending the actions that we criticize in others.

Wow.

You know it’s not pretty. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, we probably have to admit that we’ve all been there, done that, in some manner. We don’t do it intentionally. It’s just that when we get into that flight-or-fight mentality, even if we’re unaware of it, we tend to get a little stupid. I, personally, get really stupid and even self-destructive. You know that feeling that you’re going to win this at all costs, even though part of you knows you’re barreling down that path to self-destruction? Yeah, that’s when it’s really bad.

Hindsight is 20/20 because once our fear and stress hormones subside, we get wise enough to view the damage that we’ve created.   It’s like a fear hangover, where you’re wondering, “What did I do?”

I’d be lying if I told you that I’m immune to this now. Like so many other things in my life, this is an ongoing journey for me and all I can say is that I’m better than I used to be. My self-awareness and ability to identify and manage my fears are much better, and my blind spots are fewer.   My arrogance? I’ll leave that conclusion in with my other blind spots.

I think what has been most helpful to me has been an increased openness. Though I’m still fairly opinionated, I’m less certain of the definition of reality, especially when it comes to human relationships.   I’m better at stretching the period of time that I’m looking for input before forming a conclusion. I’m better at being a little less certain after I’ve formed that conclusion. I’m better at being more curious and reflective about someone else’s perspective and reality. I’m better at observing others’ tone and body language when hearing their words.   I’m waaay better at avoiding judgment of others. After all, I’m doing the same dance with my own hypocrisy: it’s the height of hypocrisy to complain about someone else’s hypocrisy.

It’s hard to be a congruent person. However, the beauty of that struggle is that we can always improve, and that’s what matters.

Signs That YOU Are The Difficult Person

One of the hardest things about being an emotional grown-up is taking ownership for one’s own behavior. It’s not that we are irresponsible or unwilling to take responsibility for our shortcomings and mistakes. Instead, it’s hard to be objective about our own behavior. We have a tendency to be focused on what others are doing wrong and what we are doing right. Some are the opposite: they only see where they are at fault and others are blameless. This dynamic is equally counter-productive and harmful towards oneself and relationships.

“Why do you look at the speck in your brothers eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” – New Testament

Pointing the finger at someone else almost always says more about the speaker than the person at the other end of the finger. Hypocrisy falls into its own unique category because the irony is usually lost on the accuser. For example, when I accuse someone else of hypocrisy, I fail to see my own role in the dysfunction and thus, my own hypocrisy. I’m hypocritical about hypocrisy. It’s like plagiarizing an essay about plagiarism (I’ve seen those too, unfortunately).   It’s like sending someone a text while driving that reprimands them for driving unsafely. You get the idea.

I don’t know what to call these phenomena of being trapped in logic loop of irony and self-delusion.   There’s no way to see through your own delusion. If you do, all you can do is to dig yourself out gracefully by laughing at the human condition.

“One man’s folly is another man’s wife” – Helen Rowland

Moral of the story: if you find yourself commenting about someone else’s hypocrisy, stop immediately to prevent yourself from digging yourself into an even deeper hole. Hypocrisy is not the only sign that you’re creating trouble.   Here are some other statements reflecting disastrous logic loops that suggest that it is you who is misbehaving.

  • You’re so judgmental
  • You don’t even know what you don’t know
  • She doesn’t know what’s best for her
  • You need to examine your own behavior
  • He’s really unforgiving
  • He thinks he’s better than me
  • She’s so smug and arrogant
  • She’s so selfish
  • He’s always complaining and negative
  • She should mind her own business
  • (What did I miss?)

Have you said any of these things lately? If so, what does the statement say about you?

Snap Judgments

I don’t consider myself a judgmental person, but we’re all hard-wired to be hypocritical. The hypocrisy I’ve noticed in myself is in first impressions.  I already know that I’m not a good judge of character.  It’s hard to ‘judge’ someone’s character when you tend to look for only their best qualities.  Turns out, I’m not good at accurate negative assessments either.

In the moment, it seems there are some characteristics that are worse than others, at least in terms of my gut reaction to them.  In my mind, I know that they’re all great when applied properly.  In my gut, there are a couple that just rankle me.  And thus my snap judgment.

I sort of even pride myself on having a good radar for this behavior.  I have these folks pegged right away.

Except for when I don’t.

I know where it comes from.  The behaviors that annoy me are those that made me feel invisible as a child.  So as an adult, I get a visceral reaction – even though objectively there’s nothing wrong with the behavior – and there’s instant dislike.  From a schema perspective, my schema makes me hyper-sensitive to certain behaviors that will go unnoticed by others. From a StrengthsFinder perspective, such qualities are probably strength themes that may not be optimally used.  For example, when I misuse my command strength, I can come across as either a bully instead of a leader.  Every one of us struggles with that balance, so there’s nothing wrong with that either.

On a couple of recent occasions I have found that I’ve been wrong about that negative assessment.  I don’t often feel grateful to be proven wrong, but in these situations, being wrong has been a big relief and an opportunity to get to know another amazing person.

Upon further reflection, I believe I will always be wrong when making a snap (negative) judgment.    If I can push aside my visceral reaction, I will again fall back on my tendency to find the best parts of that person even if that annoying quality is present.  If I cannot, then I will not be open to getting to know another beautiful spirit.

This shortcoming of mine – finding the best in others –  is actually one of my best features. It’s not a perfect feature, but I think to the degree that I can improve will enable me to feel even more connected to those around me.  I don’t need artificial barriers that are of my own creation.  There are enough of those out there already, I don’t need to add one more of my own.

Bias, It’s Not Just for Fabrics

Cutting on the bias

Cutting on the bias

Bias.  We all have it.  We don’t tend to recognize it, except in others.  Even when it’s pointed out to us, we tend to deny that we have a selective reality.  Bias is an in-born tendency that has us finding justifications to defend our perception of reality, and then calling it basic logic or morality.   When was the last time you had an argument about something that cannot be proven one way or another?  For me, much too recently.

This tendency, to see bias in others but to be blind to our own prejudices,  contributes to another human tendency – hypocrisy.   At the risk of being a hypocrite, I wish to explore this topic anyway with hopes that we can all learn from it.

Here’s how it works, according to Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis.

  1. We have a gut feeling in response to a situation.
  2. We then selectively find evidence to support our feelings and ignore any refuting evidence.  This absence of logic increases when we feel threatened or the stakes are high.
  3. We then brand our feelings as logical or moralistic, but often the viewpoint is actually self-serving.  Remember, this dynamic occurs on a subconscious level, so we are not aware that we are justifying feelings, not logic.  People who view themselves as highly moral are no more likely to make moral decisions than those that do not view themselves as especially moral.  When behaving immorally we may overcompensate and trumpet our virtue to give the appearance of virtue, to ourselves and others (I believe this type of hypocrisy is especially apparent in politics.)  “She doth protest too much,” – William Shakespeare
  4. We also tend to be exceedingly forgiving or generous with our own self-assessment.  The good news here is that this tendency tends to make us happier, healthier and better liked.  On the other hand, when our self-esteem is threated (someone reveals our hypocrisy), we may lash out to defend our delusion.
  5. We may then use should statements.  After all, we are uniquely able to see reality, and we are above average in intelligence and moral compass.  “This should happen,” “He should do that,” etc.   Such beliefs cause anger and resentment when the should fails to occur.
  6. Believing that we see the world in a uniquely unbiased way allows us to develop constructs and absolutes like good and evil.  The bad news here is the combination of our generous self-assessment and good/evil absolutes, can cause us to believe that the end (eradicating what we believe to be unambiguous evil) justifies the means.  “He deserves it,” “She had it coming,” “They have no right to…”

Given that we are all in this delusional bubble together (but also separate, since I know reality and you don’t), how can we learn from this?  Haidt recommends cognitive therapy:  write down your thoughts, recognize distortions in your thoughts, and find a more appropriate thought.  He also recommends training the mind with meditation.

I think it’s also useful to know what the red flags are to help identify when bias and hypocrisy are at play.   Pay particular attention to 1)  should statements or beliefs; 2) feelings of certainty; 3) self-justifying or defending ourselves or our position;  4) feeling like we’re on the moral high ground.

With fabric, when you cut on the bias (45 degrees from the direction of the threads), the fabric is more stretchy and resilient compared to when cutting against the bias.  Similarly, by improving our self-awareness and our tendency towards bias and hypocrisy, we can become less hypocritical, and more accommodating and responsive to the perspectives of others.