Last week we looked at the power of the mind and how internal dialogue becomes our reality. But what happens when who you believe you are doesn’t match your actions? We need to look no further than former New York representative Anthony Weiner or former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for extreme examples. There is no doubt these men believed themselves to be good, upstanding men. However, their actions did not match that belief.
Everyday people display the same ying-yang behavior. Most people consider themselves to be honest and truthful. But think nothing of telling a “white” lie to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Doing things which are counter to who we believe ourselves to be leads to what psychology calls cognitive dissonance. In order to alleviate this uncomfortable juxtaposition we justify the behavior as an exception to our own rule.
“I couldn’t very well tell the truth. That would hurt her feelings and create a huge fight over nothing.”
It might seem like you are doing someone else a favor by saving them the discomfort. In reality you are actually trying to ease the discomfort of your actions not matching your idea of self.
We know what happens on a large scale from Weiner and Schwarzenegger. Doing things that don’t match who you believe you are and the person you show to others can cause your world to crumble. It is hard to say, “That is not who I really am” because actions speak louder than words. It would be more correct to say, “That is not who I believe myself to be.”
You maybe asking, “What does cognitive dissonance have to do with healthy communication?” Actually, quite a lot. If the person you believe yourself to be and lead other people to believe you are is not mirrored in all of your actions team performance will be damaged. So you must ask yourself, am I honest – always? Am I a good person – always? Am I a team player on every occasion? Do not be too quick to answer those questions yes. It is all to easy to gloss over times when the answer is no because we are so very good at justifying.
Seeing behavior that doesn’t match the perceived image is easy in someone else. Don’t wait until you have to try to justify something to others before you notice the things you do that aren’t who you want to be.
Is it possible for good people to engage in bad behavior or does bad behavior indicate a bad person? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Next week we will take on a lighter topic – How to keep distractions from limiting your productivity.