Forrest said, “A promise is a promise.” If we take integrity as a whole, it’s more than just keeping your promises.
While keeping your promises is clearly at the core of integrity, integrity is more than just keeping your word.
One important subset of integrity is intellectual honesty.
What does it mean to be intellectually honest with yourself?
I believe being intellectually honest with yourself is making arguments you’ve thought about and consider your truth … as opposed to making an argument you think you’re supposed to make. Or being paid to make.
Advocates make arguments they are supposed to make. Advocates tell facts that support their argument. Advocates conveniently omit facts that don’t support their argument. Advocates tell half-truths. Advocates are not intellectually honest with themselves.
Politicians and their surrogates are advocates.
Con men are advocates.
The stereotypical salesman is an advocate.
I’ve worked as an advocate for past employers.
I’ve advocated for myself.
Parents advocate for their children.
We’re all been advocates from time to time.
But being intellectually honest is more than simply being an advocate.
Being intellectually honest means you have to study, think, and let go of some of your long-held beliefs.
Here are nine areas where I’m trying to be more intellectually honest and less of an advocate.
- Consistency. I try to use the same set of rules for analyzing different circumstances. For example, I try not to use one set of facts to argue for position A while using the same set of facts to argue against position B.
- All-or-nothing thinking. I try to avoid my way or the highway positions. I now can find agreement with others on details while disagreeing with them on their conclusion. I’m always looking for common ground.
- Exaggeration. I now try to avoid saying never and always – it’s usually closer to not too often or most of the time … or even more likely sometimes.
- Open-mindedness. I’m getting better at being willing to look at the other side of the coin. People with whom I disagree in principal frequently have some good points. But only by listening do I hear those good points.
- Don’t kill the messenger. Personal attacks such as you’re stupid is a reaction to having an intellectually weak position. When I catch myself saying – or thinking of saying – you’re stupid, I work harder at understanding their reasoning and logic – and not besmirching them personally.
- Acknowledging others. Even if I don’t agree, I try to acknowledge others and their thinking. Why? It shows respect and opens the door to a possible intellectually honest conversation in the future.
- Fallacious reasoning. I try to avoid drawing the wrong conclusions from circumstances. Does A + B cause C? Or would C have occurred even in the absence of A or B?
- Changing the subject. Politicians are masters of the straw man argument. Just change the subject. I’m actually good at this from years of practice. I’m trying to undo this less-than-intellectually honest habit.
- Irrelevancy. Similar to changing topics is giving a list of details that really don’t speak to the issue. The filibuster is a prime example. Another habit I’m working hard to break.
I’ll admit that my inspiration to be more intellectually honest and less of an advocate comes from our current state of politics. Advocacy is not serving our long-term interests. I’m tired of being lied to, false arguments, and intellectually dishonest arguments. Even if the truth hurts, it’s better than continuing a charade.
Will it make a difference? I remain optimistic. And I’m willing to do my part.
How intellectually honest is your day-to-day thinking?
Are you speaking your truth or simply being an advocate?
Are you willing to do the hard work of thinking with intellectual honestly?
Next Blog Title: A Gump Commencement Address
Next Blog Date: June 11, 2012