Holding To Different Standards

A general rule to follow: you’ll be a lot happier if you never hold cognitive dissonance against someone. Say you share a cause or an unpopular opinion with someone and they abandon it with flimsy justification. Unless you enjoy disappointment, remember that this didn’t happen on purpose. In fact, to them, switching feels right, like they are doing the more honest thing. It’s not personal, it’s biological.

Cognitive dissonance is easier to fall prey to if you don’t know yourself, if you aren’t regularly taking stock of yourself. To Demosthenes, at the end of virtue was constancy, and at its beginning was reflection. Reflection often means self-criticism, taking blame or generally coming to terms with reality of the world that surrounds us. So what did you expect? You can’t fault people for not developing a personality trait that ultimately tends to make difficult situations more unpleasant.

So sometimes the alternative is just too taxing to bear. Maybe they helped create the problem, maybe their livelihood depends on looking the other way. Whatever the reason, it’s OK! Remember: you decided it (reflection, taking stock, intellectual honesty) was worth doing because it was real. But you’ll get nowhere anticipating—thinking you’re entitled to—other people agreeing to that tradeoff. Nowhere, that is, but angry, let down or alone.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.