Tag Archives: knowing-doing gap

Yes, You Are A Hypocrite And So Am I

Trust me dear reader, my point is not to offend but to point out the obvious.  Whenever we espouse one thing but do another, we are a hypocrite.  Whenever we hold someone else accountable for their behavior but justify our own, we are a hypocrite.  Whenever we pretend to be someone or capable of something when we are not, we are a hypocrite.  Please allow me to explain:

Living in a duplicitous world creates the expectation that we be duplicitous ourselves. Expected to wear many hats and play many roles calls for the ability to flex as necessary from child to adult to parent to grandparent, from learner to teacher, from amateur to professional, from paid provider to unpaid volunteer, from gender to agender, from racial to nonracial, etc. 

Here are a few concepts worth considering (see sources for each below):

1.The original definition of the word hypocrite is one who considers many possible responses and selects the “right words to use” to fit the situation; or, in other words, an actor, especially one that wears a mask, or debater who considers multiple viewpoints and then selects one to project. Over time, the word took on more negative meanings especially when it was considered in a political context (i.e., politicians lie, are two-faced, and pretend to be or do something they aren’t or won’t). 

2.The Greek word hypokrisis means to act or pretend; typically someone pretending to have virtues or morals they don’t possess or hides their genuine beliefs and displays publicly approved attitudes in hopes of convincing others that they are righteous or equally deceptive, sits on a fence to neither accept the reality of not being righteous nor put in efforts to become righteous. 

Note: hypocrisy in the above definition is a moral choice  and/or a dilemma because individuals aren’t sure what they believe or want to defend.  While this might be an honest attempt to be open and flexible, it can also be the result of insecurity.  Thus, as we move through our lives and encounter unfamiliar situations we will naturally devolve to hypocrisy for a while.

3.Referencing The Happiness Hypothesis, it is easier to see hypocrisy in others since we delude ourselves into thinking we contribute more and understand more about reality than others. Our “conscious, rational mind” sees what it wants to see and thus justifies what we say and do much easier than justifying what others say and do. Our self-delusion can be helpful for us at times when encountering difficult challenges; however, it is very unhelpful when we see ourselves as having more knowledge and wisdom than others which can easily harm our relationships and decrease our overall happiness. Yet, even when the obvious negative aspects are pointed out to us, we “somehow, each of us clings to the belief that we are the sole exception.”

4.Hypocrisy is cited as the lack of conformity between stated beliefs and one’s own behavior; especially in a hypocritical culture.  While hypocrisy is a natural outcome of a bad situation (i.e., a bad system with overpower a good performer every time), “hypocrisy is bad” because it degrades social trust, reduces our ability to work together, communicate and enjoy each other’s company.  Hypocrisy hurts all of us even though you don’t always see the consequences of your duplicitous behavior (e.g., talk behind your back or actions sabotaged in business, romance and communal life in general).  Some classic examples provided are: Christians who support the War on Terror, parents who support the “white lie”, people giving themselves the right to grow and change but not extending that same right to others, and our naturally poor memories which fail to remember details and thus too casually lump behaviors and people types into one.

And so, ultimately we are all hypocrites at some times.  A positive goal is to seek the reduction in our hypocritical behavior.  Five recommended actions to accomplish this goal are:

  1. Write down your beliefs and values and read and recite them regularly;
  2. Examine your life for inconsistent behavior and start anew with more congruent behavior;
  3. Recognize the difference between important and urgent and focus on the important;
  4. Anticipate challenges and identify scenarios for dealing with them; and
  5. Prepare your responses to potential questions or incidents so that you are better prepared to act consistently with your beliefs.

Once again, we will fail, we will be hypocritical; however, by pausing, reflecting and then taking action we can reduce the number of our failures especially on the most important situations in our lives.

5.Most of us are plenty smart to know the right thing to say and do at the right time and yet we tend to be much better at saying than doing.  The “smart talk trap” is a very common trait in modern business and modern technology.  Not following through on our smart talk is also very common.  Using the excuses of urgency, unfair competition, “need to survive” versus thrive, are all lame and lead to major gaps in integrity. The “knowing-doing gap” can be lessened by improving our memory through careful codification, reducing fear through emphasis on quality, using metrics to reward good judgment, and reducing unhealthy competition to improve collaboration and cooperation.  A lot of “motherhood and apple pie” here but real enough if taken seriously.

In summary, we will be hypocritical at times in our life but we can avoid becoming full-time hypocrites by understanding where and when we fail and how best to minimize those failures.  I do believe this is worth doing and intend to act on this belief; which is another reason for going public with this post so that I may be held more accountable. 

Carry on dear friends.

Here are the four articles and one book that are the sources for this opinion.  They are:

  1. Are We All Hypocrites? by Professor Susi Ferrarello, Ph.D, California State University Are We All Hypocrites? | Psychology Today
  2. Are we all Hypocrites? By Zainab Olaitan Adegoke Are we all Hypocrites?. Have we ever found ourselves doing what… | by Zainab Olaitan Adegoke | Medium
  3. We Are All Hypocrites: How We Justify Ourselves, Hannah Aster We Are All Hypocrites: How We Justify Ourselves | Shortform Books
  4. We’re All Hypocrites, It’s Just a Matter of Scale, by Allen Faulton We’re All Hypocrites, It’s Just a Matter of Scale | by Allen Faulton | Medium
  5. The Knowing-Doing Gap, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, © 2000 President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard Business School Press, The Knowing-Doing Gap – Jeffrey Pfeffer