This book can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.ca/Mistakes-Were-Made-But-Not/dp/0156033909
Today we are going to continue to look at Chapter 1, “Cognitive Dissonance: Spirals of Violence – and Virtue.”
“Spirals of Violence” refers to the fact that many of us believe or have been told that we stress about things. There are stress balls and various other things that we can supposedly use to relieve our stress, but it is not surprising that they really don’t’ work. The authors claim that decades of experiments have proven that Venting actually doesn’t relieve stress, it just raises your blood pressure and generally makes matters worse.
The authors claim that Venting is especially bad when it involves another person because cognitive dissonance kicks in and we find that we have to justify our bad behaviour. If we believe that we have been too hard on an individual, we will find a way to justify our position rather than simply apologize.
The authors note that dissonance works both ways, that would be the Virtue part. If a person were to perform a random act of kindness towards an individual that they don’t like, they will eventually have to justify that act. Rather than congratulate themselves for overcoming their hatred, they actually convince themselves that the person must not be as bad as they thought.
It turns out that the “Virtuous Circle” is not a new phenomena. Benjamin Franklin was a student of human nature and used this technique to win over a person who was causing him some grief in the Pennsylvanian legislature. He asked the individual in question if he could borrow a rare book from the person’s personal library. He didn’t actually want to read the book, he just kept it for a week and returned it with a note thanking the person for their generosity. The next time they met the animosity was gone and they grew to become great friends.
In this case Benjamin didn’t perform the random act of kindness, he induced his target to do that instead.
Dissonance theory works in another interesting way in that people who consider themselves to be crooks or incompetents with low self esteem are not surprised when they continue to behave badly. The authors use examples like con-men and used car salesmen but we have similar stereo types in the tech industry. The crux of the issue is that people who screw up constantly, lie to customers, or overhang the market, do not feel dissonance because these are their normal behaviour patterns. One would hope that they are not happy with the situation, but they don’t feel that it is within their power to change.
More on Chapter One next time, but until then, see if you can’t build your own cred with what you have learned from Ben. Its been 200 years since he borrowed that book, but that would still work today.
I not sure about e-books though so you are running out of time…