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Living a Lie: We Deceive Ourselves to Better Deceive Others

Fooling Yourself To Fool Others

If a person believes in himself completely, he is able to use that belief to his advantage.

Self-deception is often the first step to convincing and persuading others. It is about one’s inner motivations, and not about what’s right. Many people depend on this tool to advance their careers. Being self-motivated is the only way others can be motivated.


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Living a Lie: We Deceive Ourselves to Better Deceive Others

Living a Lie: We Deceive Ourselves to Better Deceive Others


Key Ideas

Our Delusions

Most people are misleading themselves all the time. Our biases, our ego and our mental traps have held us captive, unable to endorse or support anything that shakes our cage. We believe we are smart, good looking, and can do no wrong.

The truth is that our mind’s information-gathering, reasoning and recollections are inherently biased.

Reality Distortion

Most of us have evolved to overestimate our positive qualities, as it feels good. This ‘self-enhancement’ is done with the right intentions but is nothing more than a reality distortion in our minds.


We all form impressions about ourselves, and once those impressions have been formed, they stick. It is as if once they are frozen in our minds, having become a part of us, and we don’t want to lose them, even if they are proven to be false.

Example: A study on high school boys showed that having overconfidence (or self-deception) in one’s abilities (athletic or academic) made them popular, even if they weren't really better in any of those abilities.

Fooling Yourself To Fool Others

If a person believes in himself completely, he is able to use that belief to his advantage.

Self-deception is often the first step to convincing and persuading others. It is about one’s inner motivations, and not about what’s right. Many people depend on this tool to advance their careers. Being self-motivated is the only way others can be motivated.


The Illusion of Explanatory Depth

We are overconfident about what we think because we're familiar with the material. 

We think we know more than we actually do because it's ava...

How to Win an Argument

If you want to win an argument, simply ask the person trying to convince you of something to explain how it would work.

Chances are they have not done the work required to hold an opinion. If they can explain why they are correct and how things would work, you'll learn something. If they can't you'll soften their views, perhaps nudging them ever so softly toward your views.

To Persuade or Convince

When people disagree with us we assume they are ignorant … that they lack information. So we try to convince them with information. It seldom works.

  • Persuasion appeals to the emotions and to fear and to the imagination. Convincing requires a spreadsheet or some other rational device.
  • It’s much easier to persuade someone if they’re already convinced, but it’s impossible to change someone’s mind merely by convincing them of your point.

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Our reasons for lying

Where lying is concerned, we just can't seem to help ourselves. 

We lie for two reasons: behavioral conditioning and cognitive evolutionary biology.

Behavioral conditioning

Lying keeps us hooked because we enjoy the reward. The outcomes are unpredictable.
Lying is reinforced every time we get away with it. 

Cognitive evolutionary biology

Lying is a valuable tool in our survival kit. We can spare someone's feelings or build social standing. Lying can keep us out of trouble or even save our lives.

Practicing deception starts as early as six months of age such as fake crying or laughter. But people only start to get good at it after another four years where they learn to let go of the unbelievable lies and settle for what kind of lies work. 

Carl Jung's Archetypes
Carl Jung's Archetypes

In the psychology of Carl Jung, the archetypes represent universal patterns and images that are part of the collective unconscious.
The four main archetypes described by Jung are:

    The Persona

    In a public situation, we present a different version of ourselves than from the one at home. Every profession has unspoken agreements about which manners are acceptable, and which are not.

    It is then the purpose of the persona to suppress the impulses and emotions that are not considered socially acceptable. The difficulty is when one becomes so identified with his persona that he loses all sense of self. The result is an inflated persona with excessive concern for what people think and a lack of courage to endure conflict and refuse others' wishes.

    The Shadow

    The 'shadow self' is everything a person has denied in themselves, such as spontaneity, aggression, cowardice, carelessness, passion, enthusiasm. It embraces all the thoughts and moods for which we feel guilt and shame.

    The shadow is emotional, for it must oppose the rigidness of the ego. It is prone to psychological projection, where we attribute to others the inferior qualities we do not want to admit are in ourselves. When we perceive a moral deficiency in others, we can be sure there is similar inferiority within ourselves. If we take note of our resentment towards ourselves and others, we have the opportunity to bring the shadow into consciousness.

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    Vision and Inspiration
    Vision and Inspiration

    Some leaders create a vision of the future yet fail to move people into action. They fail to articulate and communicate their vision. Few buy into the vision; fewer truly follow.

    Winston Churchill
    Winston Churchill

    "Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe."

    Traits of Inspiring Leaders

    To inspire others, leaders must be:

    • Trusted with a vision that affirms altruism, social responsibility and the inclusion of those that follow them.
    • Believable: people are motivated if they have purpose. The leader’s vision helps employees to see their purpose in the workplace. And the most effective vision is one that takes account of the interests of stakeholders.
    • Passionate Inspiring others when you are passionate about the subject is easier. Your passion will inspire others if you express it.
    Self-awareness has 2 components
    • Internal self-awareness: the ability to introspect and recognize your authentic self;
    • External self-awareness: the ability to recognize how you fit in with the rest of the world. ...
    The “bias blind spot"

    It relates to our tendency to recognize cognitive biases in others, without noticing them in ourselves. In other words, our brain isn’t built to easily spot our own lack of self-awareness.  

    Self-awareness and leadership

    After examined the traits that contribute to the effectiveness of successful leaders, researchers concluded that a high level of self-awareness was the strongest predictor of success: when leaders are self-aware, they know how to hire subordinates who are strong in the areas where they themselves are weak.

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    Analyze vs. speculate

    Assuming folded arms are a sign of lying behavior is speculation. 

    Instead, consider whether the behavior is a result of your question, or possibly just nervousness.

    Manage your bias

    Deceptive people can flood you with truthful answers and make you believe that they are good people. 

    Filter through all the information that is meant to deceive you to get to the real untruths.

    Recognize evasiveness

    A deceptive person will talk around the issue without actually answering the initial question. 

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    Leadership literature

    Leadership failures in government, business, and nonprofits have created a demand for leadership studies and literature.

    Unfortunately, these materials describe u...

    The morality tale

    Leadership has become a kind of morality tale: Leaders are supposed to be authentic and truthful, paying attention to their employees' well-being and building trust.


    The moral framing of leadership does not consider the real complexities and difficulties that leaders face.

    Sometimes, being pragmatic necessitates doing seemingly bad things to achieve good results. This means that leaders may have to act in strategic misrepresentation, contrary to their own feelings.

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    Be a Professional Cheerleader

    Charismatic people offer encouragement instead of skeptically listening to people’s goals and ideas. Find ways to encourage people while still holding them accountable:

    Charismatic People Bring People Together

    Charismatic people have lots of connections and share them regularly. Highly charismatic people are not only great at meeting new people, but also sharing their talent with their connections by introducing people who they know will get along well.

    This quality is part of the reason charismatic people are such sought after connections; they spread their social wealth.

    Likability is Key To Your Own Charisma

    Likable leaders earn the trust of their team members and treat them well, and that makes the team’s performance better.

    Teams with likable leaders tend to be more stable long-term because of lower turnover rates and are also better with changes since they are more likely to have employees committing to adopting to new ways.

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    Why We Judge Others

    There are many ways we choose to measure the value of our own lives, be it money or popularity of family or good deeds.

    The way you measure yourself is how you measure others, and how you ...

    Judging Mindfully

    Traits we will not tolerate within ourselves, we will not tolerate in others. It is a choice we make. We should make those choices consciously and not without thinking.

    It’s why corrupt officials choose to be corrupt: because they assume everyone else is as corrupt as they are. It’s why cheaters choose to cheat. It’s why those who can’t trust are the ones who can’t be trusted.

    Recognize our own fixation

    Recognize how you measure yourself and consciously choose your metric. Also, realize that everyone has their own criteria that will not be the same as yours. 

    The Negativity Bias
    The Negativity Bias
    ... or the Negativity Effect is a tendency most of us have to respond more strongly to negative events and emotions than to positive ones.
    Any further action that is ...
    Magnified Faults

    The Negativity Effect magnifies and distorts your partner's faults, whether real or imaginary.

    The partner starts to wonder why isn't there any appreciation for all the good that is being done, and why the focus is only on the one bad thing.

    Going Downhill

    Relationships, especially long-term ones, don't get better with time but are kept intact by avoiding decline.

    Married couples find contentment in other sources and remain satisfied with each other, and if not so, then the marriage breaks down.

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