Jul 01, Nic Brisbourne rated it it was amazing Goleman sets out the purpose and mechanisms of self deception at the individual and group levels. Our subconscious naturally filters out noise so we can focus on the signal e. Groups operate in a similar fashion. Group Goleman sets out the purpose and mechanisms of self deception at the individual and group levels. Group members develop a shared understanding of which topics are good for productive discussion and which are divisive so they can operate efficiently. These mechanisms are an essential tool for any healthy mind or effective team, but when they go wrong serious delusions, pathological behaviour and poor decisions can follow.

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No one asked me and probably no one gives a hoot. Teaching at Rutgers is a source of enormous pleasure, made even more so now by the added rewards of the newly endowed Edythe and Dean Dowling Chair in Communications and Public Policy.

And so on and on and on. Now all of these themes make for extraordinarily interesting reading in the Times…and I would imagine that they make for extraordinarily interesting writing, too. Coleman will make room for those of us who envy him so. And I hasten also to note that he is much more generous, certainly much less judgmental than many of the rest of us would be. But Dr. Goleman is interested in pointing out how vital lies may be as contrasted to simple truths.

I think that government, for example, runs by the tacit assumption that lies are okay. Heffner: Of course at other times, at the time of the Watergate Hearings, we were laughed at by many Europeans. Of course lying and deception go on in public life. Why do you think this is healthy? Goleman: The hearings are healthy because the essence of a democracy is the free flow of information. And the fact that people are being lied to, that information is being withheld, that things are going on that people are not privy to means a democracy is not really working.

Or yes, we want to know what Gary Hart did. You know the French and the Europeans thought that it was absurd for us to care about what went on in the bedroom of a Presidential candidate. You explain the roles that lies play. Goleman: Well there are some very benign effects from very important lies.

You have to believe in yourself. And to believe in yourself, you have to forget some things. In fact, if people start to become depressed, research shows they see themselves more realistically than people who are not depressed do. You say productive, helpful, and then benign.

Where do you draw the line, at what point? Do you find a person who has, for good reasons, productive reasons, blanked out the past, lied to himself, becoming now someone whose little lies have become bigger and more important and perhaps pathological? Goleman: I think the way to tell whether a lie is benign or not is to look at its consequence. They may not be working. They continue to lie to themselves and lie to themselves about the consequence.

In fact, a lot of lying goes on in families of alcoholics or even where there are problems like incest or wife abuse. What do you teach? Do you teach the social utility and the personal utility of untruths?

Or do you teach, in an absolute way, that the truth shall make us free? Goleman: I think that the important truth shall make us free. But there are lies that parents model for their children which are going to be useful for them to understand. Heffner: But you know, I want to ask you as a researcher, someone who has studied the question of untruths, of the blanks in the lacuna in our memories.

Would you say, forget now about Watergate and forget about Irangate, would you say that in our personal lives there has been a change in the past several generations that we tend more to move toward the social lie that you talk about? Does the lie about Aunt Tillie or to her, does that loom larger now do you think than it did in family life in America a hundred years ago?

That we see the relative uses of it. And I think that that probably is not for our own good. Because that may be part of a general phenomena at large in society which is more accepting of collusions and I think these collusions are quite dangerous.

And they happen all around us. They happen actually in every organization. They happen in corporations. They happen in government and they start with something that goes on in the family. Every family teaches its youngsters three intentional rules. Those rules are never taught openly. In fact, nobody ever thinks about them. Every child in being socialized learns those three things. And so Mom never gets any help.

But because we model these intentional rules, everyone takes those understandings with them whenever they join any other group. Hutton when they were floating their checks to the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars a day. That was a profit center. Heffner: Why is our society more accepting? Goleman: Rootless. It may be why employees are so willing to pilfer or to embezzle from companies, because it is anonymous.

That people will go along to get along. Instead of standing by the values that would matter if they were dealing with someone that were personally important to them. If we are the department of this or the department of that or the President or the Congress even. Does this mean that we have more now, even those who are analysts and commentators, accepted a larger social acceptance in turn of the larger lie, the more vital lie?

Goleman: …to my whole understanding. The eye makes a number of very small movements whenever it looks at anything. And he showed people a set of pictures. And in the background a man reading a newspaper. When he showed this picture to people who were very anxious about sexual matters they did the most remarkable thing. Their eyes fixed on that guy with the newspaper and never went anywhere near the naked torso. Now how could they do that?

Well what it means is that the mind is quicker than the eye. That happens all the time in many, many ways. Heffner: So that there really is no way of avoiding lies. We seem to do it naturally. That kind of thing goes on all the time and in business what it means is the consequences…the moral implications, the ethical, the legal implications of what people do are very easily tuned out of. You have to make a mental effort to think about it, to bring it up.

Where does the value judgment come in? What chance is there for us to find the kind of truthful morality in politics when we ourselves are built in such a way? When our very psychology is given to this sleight of hand? We can point to the one thing that is not being said. In an authoritarian government, in a dictatorship, the first thing they do is censor the press.

The first thing that the individual does is repress. Shapiro is talking about. The memories that are too loaded, too important and too threatening are the ones that are most easily forgotten or most easily twisted. And in society at large the same thing is true. A repressive government does not want and is very frightened of the free flow of information. What is it that needs to be examined?

What is it that needs to be looked at? Those are the things that really count. Are you really sure that blowing the whistle brings great praise to an individual? Goleman: No. Blowing the whistle is probably the most dangerous thing anyone can do.

To whistle-blow, to bring up the thing that is not to be paid attention to is to violate that essential understanding. The universal consequence to whistle-blowers is that they get booted out.

They get demoted, they get transferred, they get fired, lots of research shows us. But about seventy to eighty percent of whistle-blowers suffer immensely. And on the other hand, the paradox is that the whistle-blower, it turns out, is highly loyal to the organization. So their own ethics drive them to tell the truth. But the paradox is that the organization feels betrayed and angry and retaliates. Heffner: In terms of the thrust of our society, of our lives, is know thyself a notion that is less compelling today or increasingly more compelling?

In other words, in terms of your researches, which direction are we going in? Goleman: I think that the higher use of psychotherapy, for example, is knowing thyself. And I think in general it is probably greater than ever because our identities are so, so much less well defined as society becomes more anonymous.

And the fact that we know fewer people as life goes on, who have known us for a long time, and so on.


Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception



Vital Lies, Simple Truths




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