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Unbox Your Reality: How to Break Free from Self-Deception and Experience the True Version of Yourself & Others

Unbox Your Reality: How to Break Free from Self-Deception and Experience the True Version of Yourself & Others

Whether you are aware of it or not, your brain and ego work hard to control your experiences.  This is, of course, like many of our thinking processes and patterns, designed to maintain our identity and help us navigate a dynamic and often threatening world.   One of the ways we attempt to keep control is to place labels on a person’s most dominant traits.  "He is nice," "She is smart," "He is always late," and "They are unreliable," and so on.

By creating labels for the behaviors we experience the most, we can predict what the other person will do.  This gives us some level of control over our experience. We can be prepared for what might happen.  Once we experience a person regularly, we create a mental character version of him/her, essentially putting them in a box and defining them.  This can be harmful because it limits our ability to see the person as complex and multifaceted.

In the book "Leadership and Self-Deception" by The Arbinger Institute, the concept of "self-deception" is explained in depth and I would like to break down the key concepts so that you will be aware that this is happening and start to override this default process, giving you a more realistic experience in your personal and professional relationships. 

The problem with labeling and creating characters is that it prevents you from truly understanding the other person, from grasping the reality of the situation occurring between the two of you, and then ensuring that your responses will create the best outcome.  When we are working with limited labels and beliefs, we can start to believe in a version of reality that is an illusion.  This is how we deceive ourselves; we choose the illusion vs. real life.

This story and the characters that you create are often based on your own biases, prejudices, and preconceived notions about the person. It closes off your mind to the possibility that the person may be different from your perceptions.  It also keeps you blind to the reasons for their actions and behaviors that may be important or valid for consideration for the complete resolution of issues and the achievement of shared goals. 

The by-product of this way of operating leads to misunderstanding and disappointment when you realize that the other person isn’t the character you have created.  It is common for people to talk about this in romantic relationships when, in the early stages, each person is blind to the other person’s flaws and is so “in love” that they seemingly can only see the best of the person. Then, inevitably, the longer they are in a relationship, the more they start to experience the whole person with flaws, weaknesses, and opposing viewpoints. At this point, you could believe that the other person was hiding their true self from you when, in reality, it was YOU who was choosing to interact with the character vs. the whole, real person.

Reflect on all the times you have felt disappointed or duped by people you thought you could trust and then later, you were shocked by behaviors or choices that felt grossly “out of character” for them. This is because you were interacting with the character, not the real person. I’m not excusing bad behavior; I’m showing you how self-deception works when we are closed off and refuse to allow people to show us their full range of characteristics.

So, how can you overcome the tendency to label others and create characters for them?

The first step is to become aware of your own biases and prejudices.  Commit yourself to recognizing that everyone is unique and complex and that you cannot fully understand someone by simply labeling them.

Secondly, practice empathy and put yourself in the other person's shoes. By trying to see things from their perspective and understand their motivations, you can begin to break down the barriers that your labels and characters have created.

Finally, strive to see the full humanity in other people. Accept that everyone, including you, has strengths and weaknesses.  Instead of focusing on faults and shortcomings, look for the good in people, assume positive intent, and appreciate their strengths.

By taking these steps, you will develop more meaningful, empathetic, and productive relationships, both personally and professionally.  As the book "Leadership and Self-Deception" teaches us, true leadership begins with understanding and valuing the humanity in yourself and others. Unlock your best life (the one you say you want!) by breaking free from the shackles of self-deception.

Don’t miss Deep Work Fast on LinkedIn and Facebook Tuesday's at 3:00 PT or check out our YouTube channel for replays of all prior episodes. 


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