Dealing with Intellectual Dishonesty

You probably consider yourself to be intellectually honest. In reality, it is hard work to deal with our intellectual dishonesty.

Wikipedia describes intellectual honesty this way:

Intellectual honesty is an applied method of problem solving, characterized by an unbiased, honest attitude, which can be demonstrated in a number of different ways:

  • One’s personal faith does not interfere with the pursuit of truth;
  • Relevant facts and information are not purposefully omitted even when such things may contradict one’s hypothesis;
  • Facts are presented in an unbiased manner, and not twisted to give misleading impressions or to support one view over another;
  • References, or earlier work, are acknowledged where possible, and plagiarism is avoided.

Very few would make it past the first bullet. When something doesn’t fit our worldview, our belief system filters it out and we fail to challenge our assumptions. But challenging your beliefs doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning them. Tests can refine our beliefs, making them (and us) stronger.

Personally, I think intellectual honesty is worth the hard work. I have found that what I sacrifice is replaced by something more valuable. When we avoid the hard work, we also avoid opportunities for learning and growth.

Two things to keep in mind:

  1. Recognize your tendencies to be intellectually dishonest. Are you dismissing something because it isn’t true, or because it is inconvenient? Be willing to challenge yourself in order to grow.
  2. Recognize others are unwilling to do the hard work of intellectual honesty. It’s much easier to be persuasive by first connecting with what people already believe. If you had to confront your own beliefs, be willing to share that experience and show empathy for the hard work of change.

Dustin Staiger is a business and marketing coach in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, marketing, communications and creativity for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations as well as large enterprises.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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