Lesson 2.11

Preventing Self- and Group-Deception

Dive into this topic by watching the video, followed by key concepts below:


Key Concepts:


Sometimes productive cognitive friction and debate gets derailed because we lie—to ourselves or others.

  • Exaggerations, leaving out information that could change people’s conclusions, and other misleading behavior is at obvious odds with good teamwork.

  • But preventing deception is tricky, because spotting it is tricky.

There are a few ways to maximize your chances of not being deceived:

  • Fact checking: whenever someone makes an assertion of fact, ask for the data or proof. Just make it a habit.

  • When someone feeds you B.S., ask them to distinguish facts from stories. Literally you can say, “Can you parse out for me what are the objective observations you’re basing this on, and what are your conclusions or opinions?” (See Lesson 2.4 for this exercise.)

  • You can give people ultimatums to prevent further deception. “If you lie to me again, I will do [x].” It’s easier to do this from a place of power or authority, of course. But when other people you collaborate see you holding a firm line on honesty with someone else, they’ll often step up their behavior with you.

The Deception-Busting Script

It’s hard to police deceptive statements in an informal setting, or a setting where you don’t have the power. For that, try using a script like this when you notice someone has said something deceptive:

  1. (Stop them.) “Let me stop you right there for a second.”

  2. (Identify the deception.) “You just said [x]. However, I believe that’s inaccurate.”

  3. (Clarify the real fact and its source.) “The truth, according to [source], is [state it accurately].”

  4. (Give them the chance to explain themselves or recover.) “Can we rewind to where we left off?”

It’s really hard to pull this off without seeming like a jerk. And it’s also hard to take being called out like this without your ego smarting a little bit.

So if the person allows you to get through this script without jumping in, good on them.

But people will sometimes respond by attacking the facts or their source, using another deception like claiming that the facts are just an opinion—or resorting to dodging, etc.

In some cases, they’ll combat being called out with an outright lie.

This is where the role of a good debate referee, a neutral party to the conversation, can be especially helpful to include. In any case, the best you can do is keep your cool, speak from a place of objectivity.

Self-Deception Prevention: Keep A Lie Journal

One of the best ways to curb self-deception—the lies we tell ourselves—is to keep a daily journal. It’s more psychologically difficult to be dishonest with yourself about what’s happening in your life and work when you write it down on paper. That doesn’t mean you can’t lie to your journal, but a journal is a good place to unwind your own B.S.

Even better, try this exercise: For one month, keep a Lie Journal. Keep an ongoing list of all your white lies—even the tiny ones that don’t seem to matter—and add them to your daily journal entry. You’ll be surprised how quickly this little exercise blows your mind.