Monday, January 2, 2012

Being Better #2 - Admitting Failure - Why is it So Hard?

How many times have you caught yourself saying, "I know I was the one driving, but if she hadn't walked out into the road, she never would have been hit. I mean, who just steps into a crosswalk without looking thoroughly? Do you trust those 'walk now' signs? I know I don't."

Mercy. Say I'm an a-hole, just don't say I'm wrong.

Ok, so that was an exaggeration, but it does show how our thinking often goes when we run smack dab into a failure. And why is that? What makes it so hard to just say
, 'I messed up, I blew it, I was wrong'? In a word dissonance.

When you think of the word dissonance, if you are like me you think of the gawd awful sound that comes from a piano when you smash Rachmaninoff, just one more time for several traumatized relatives. Sadly for us, the same thing happens in our brains when we try to hold two incongruent thoughts at the same time, like say 'I'm a good person' and 'I just ran over a lady because I was too busy putting on my lipstick when I should have been driving'. When our brains confront such a choice they typically latch on to the more preferable of the two alternatives. 'I am a good person', easily trumps the competing idea under an avalanche of justification. We call this Cognitive Dissonance.

The bad news, cognitive dissonance is not something we can easily turn off. It may even be hard-wired. Does that mean we are just doomed? Of course not. Difficult does not equal impossible. I believe that we human being are capable not only of changing our behavior, but also of better managing ourselves to account for our blind spots like cognitive dissonance.

As with most worthy ventures it will be a challenge, one I can only begin to address in this blog post. But just in discussing this peccadillo of the mind we have already taken step one. If we want to minimize the negative effects of cognitive dissonance in our lives, first we must acknowledge this vulnerability. Only when we see ourselves as we truly are can we begin to change.

No comments:

Post a Comment