How to stop being intellectually dishonest with yourself (and spot when others do it)

Disagreement doesn’t have to be so awful. Our different viewpoints can make our families and communities and companies BETTER—but only if we learn to stop a subtle little thing called Intellectual Dishonesty.

I’ve written a lot about how two heads are only better than one if they’re different. In my books, I argue that the best kind of collaboration requires:

A) people who think differently (aka “cognitive diversity”), to

B) put their heads together (creating “cognitive friction”), and

C) be willing to change (using “intellectual humility”).

A group where everyone is equal and able to speak freely ought to be able to tap its cognitive diversity and make continuous progress on hard problems together—generating cognitive friction via:

  • Discourse (exchanging ideas); and

  • Debate (arguing the merits of those ideas).

But most of the time things don’t work out so smoothly.

Battles of different viewpoints can be painful. They often get personal. And very often, debates about ideas devolve into battles of people versus people, group versus group.

And so instead of epiphanies born from different viewpoints, we get government shut downs. Instead of civil discourse in our companies and relationships, we get backroom maneuvering—or all out war.

Perhaps the biggest culprit that gets in the way of unlocking our potential—together and in our own lives—is something called intellectual dishonesty.

No, it’s not quite lying. It’s more subtle than that. And that’s why it’s such a problem.

I’ve spent the last few months of my work exploring the concept of intellectual dishonesty and what we can do about it. Curbing it is very much a prerequisite to intellectual humility, which you can learn everything you wanted to know about it in this post here.

And I’m absolutely convinced: understanding intellectual dishonesty can help us live our lives with more integrity, wisdom, and courage.

It can help you be a better colleague. A better business partner. A better parent.

Since intellectual dishonesty is such a big problem in politics—and since politicians and cable news pundits employ it very visibly—I’ve decided to explore it through the lens of political debate. But once you see how intellectual dishonesty works, and just how easily we can fall for it ourselves, I think you’ll be better equipped to spot and curb it in your own life—as a parent, a partner, a collaborator, or even just with your own internal dialogue.

So what exactly is intellectual dishonesty? How does it work? How do we stop it?

Read about all that and more by clicking here: http://shanesnow.com/id

Here’s what the post contains:

  1. An Overview Of Intellectual Dishonesty

  2. The Six Big Problems With (Much of Our) Discourse

  3. The Art Of The Dodge

  4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Fallacy

  5. The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck About The Truth

  6. Dirty Debating

  7. How To Get A Bad Debate Back On Track

  8. A Proposed Set Of New Rules For Political (and other) Debates

As you read, I’d ask that you take off your own “political identity hat” and focus on the behaviors being discussed more than the people (and parties they belong to) who I use as examples of these behaviors. That may be an exercise in intellectual humility itself, but hey—it’s a new year and a great time to work on that!

Once again, click here for the full post.

As always, much love,

Shane

What To Read For Fun This Holiday Season

Happy Holidays!

One of my favorite things about the limbo week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is getting a little space to read for pleasure. If you have any downtime and feel like getting a present for yourself, this week’s Snow Report is just a list of the best books I read FOR FUN in 2018:

  • A young Japanese Don Draper type gets caught up in a conspiracy involving sheep, ghosts, a mysterious authoritarian villain, and a girl with magic ears. If that doesn’t get you excited, then just read it for an amazing writing lesson on clever chapter transitions. (A Wild Sheep Chase, by Murakami)

  • A young Saudi Arabian woman who lives in the first city on the Moon gets caught up in a lunar heist involving petty smuggling, aluminum mines, space tractors, and oxygen deprivation. If that doesn’t get you, the easy-to-understand science lessons the author sneaks in will make you feel super smart. (Artemis, by Andy Weir)

  • A seasoned American journalist and devout Materialist investigates the crazy history of psychedelics, including how Nixon banned LSD because of Vietnam despite overwhelming research showing it helps depression and addiction recovery many times better than any drug on the market. He then decides to try a bunch of psychedelics himself at age 60 and rethinks his views on humanity (and God). This true story will turn your brain delightfully upside down. (How To Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan)

And if you didn’t get the chance to read my own books that came out this year, here’s two more fun reads to check out!

  • An unstoppable Soviet hockey team, a gang of pirates that saves America, a young woman who took down a corrupt hospital system, and more show us the hidden science of being a great team player—along with high-stakes stories about Jewish soccer kids, communist artists, underdog activists, and a guy who tried to build a dome over a small town in Vermont. I’m honored and humbled to share that Dream Teams was a #1 bestseller this summer, and swept the business and political world this fall. (Thank you all who supported it!)

  • Why do twice as many people trust JK Rowling as Queen Elizabeth? What’s the brain science behind the Hopi proverb, Those Who Tell The Stories Rule The World? My main man Joe Lazauskas and I explore the art and science of telling great stories in the business bestseller The Storytelling Edge. If you’re in marketing and haven’t read this, the Kindle version is only $11 right now. ;)

Finally, if you plan on honing your own writing chops a little this holiday break, check out this year’s archive of interviews with authors on their writing process at https://blog.shanesnow.com/ (which I recently repurposed as a blog just about writing. The rest of my articles on other subjects can now be found at http://shanesnow.com/articles).

Wishing you love and a happy end of 2018!

Shane

On Intellectual Humility: Tolerance vs Respect

Hello from Kyoto, and welcome to the latest Snow Report! If you like what you read here, pass it along! <3

One of the keys to exercising intellectual humility in our lives—that is, discerning when and when not to change our minds, and having the strength to do so—is having respect for other viewpoints. Being open to ideas that seem foreign to us is incredibly important for innovation, and for progress in society.

But what happens when someone else’s viewpoint is morally abhorrent?

As I lay out in The Black Square chapter of Dream Teams, even bad ideas can lead us to good ideas—and often, things that look crazy or far out end up helping us make incredible breakthroughs in business and in life. So it’s important for us to be curious enough to explore viewpoints we don’t initially “get,” if we want to maximize our chances of making progress on whatever we’re working on.

And yet, sometimes that someone else is Hitler and his viewpoint is “we should kill all the Jews.” What then?

Does having intellectual humility mean we need to tolerate this viewpoint?

Or what about less evil, but nonetheless bad viewpoints? Like, the belief that we should abolish the law that you have to clean up after your German Shepherd when it poops on the public sidewalk?

Does being tolerant mean you need to accept that?

This question has repercussions in both business and politics, and it explains the dilemma many well meaning, open-minded people have when they encounter, say, people who aren’t open minded.

The answer lies, as it often does, in our conflation of two similar, but different things. That is, the difference between respect and tolerance.

Respect is being willing to hear people out before we cast judgment. It’s seeking to understand people, not interrupting them first. It’s allowing them to believe what they believe, even if we disagree. It is not, however, allowing them to behave any way they want—say, if that involves doing harm to someone else.

Tolerance is allowing people to say, do, and be what they want. In most cases, this is a morally good thing. But tolerance is not morally good in all cases (e.g. Hitler.). In fact, tolerance taken to its extreme means tolerating intolerance, which is self-contradictory.

Philosopher Karl Popper described this paradox of tolerance in 1945. He eventually concluded that "in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance."

I believe that having respect for human beings, no matter who they are or what they believe, is a morally good thing. And it’s good for innovation, as understanding bad ideas can help us develop good ones. I believe we should seek to understand people and hear them out before we cast judgment.

But we shouldn’t tolerate intolerant behavior. That itself is disrespectful. It’s, by definition, cutting off other viewpoints.

We can, however, still treat seemingly intolerant people with respect—to the degree that we can listen to them before we judge them. And we can give them fair hearings when their intolerance harms other people.

By seeking to understand even intolerant viewpoints, we can do the right thing and prevent intolerant views from becoming intolerant action (i.e. evil)—and we can do it without selling out our humanity.

So let’s listen a little more. Let’s try to understand a little more. And let’s not let intolerance prevent us from being open minded—or from stopping intolerance itself.

Maybe we can learn a little about ourselves in the process.

Much love (and respect),

Shane

P.S. On the dog poop sidewalk question: I think that’s not a question of tolerance so much as negative externalities that affect society in a bad way. But I’m willing to hear out arguments in favor of not curbing your dog, if anyone has one! ;)

P.P.S. I have a HUGE post about intellectual dishonesty and debate coming up soon. Stay tuned, and meantime, happy holidays!

P.P.P.S. Have you checked out the new book Insane Mode yet? It’s by one of my favorite writers, Hamish Mckinzie, and it just came out. It’s about the future of energy, electric cars, and the strange and mythological leadership of Elon Musk.

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