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‘The loudest voice in your head is the lies you tell yourself’

Karl Jung said, ‘the loudest voice in your head is the lies you tell yourself.’ We have repeated these lies so often they resonate and appear to us to be fundamental truths about who we are. ‘I hate confrontation’, ‘I am always late’, ‘Once I have one I need three or four (or seven)’.We live the lie and it becomes ‘the truth’ (or so we swear); how do we make the lie become what it actually is, a lie?

I have been a trainer for just over three thousand years now and the most prominent lie I have witnessed when exam training is about reactions to the pursuit of new ideas in learning and study. Talk to even the most cool hipster students about sitting mock exams in coffee shops wearing earplugs to simulate the worst excesses of a noise-challenged exam room, and they look at you like you are describing animal porn.

‘Use pictures in my study notes?’, ‘Play music to imitate the rhythmic beat of the memory?’, ‘Take a mixture of blueberries and almonds into the exam room to maintain vital brain sugars??’ What is this madness? ‘I could never do that; the fangle of these new ideas just won’t work for me’. (Did you spot the ‘lie’ in that final sentence? To her it is the truth.)

The noted Futurologist Alvin Toffler made a detailed study of the acceleration of change and its psychological effects. (Can you imagine a life more awesome than being known for something that is just made up? A ‘Tobleronophile’, or a ‘Serial Gamester’ … a ‘Futurologist’?) He suggested that it could lead to a set of severe physical and mental disturbances. His most noted research concluded that, in general, human beings react badly to change and that they are led, inspired and sometimes bullied by those who accept it more readily.

To me the rejection of new ideas in an holistic approach to study has always been at odds with the education of the next breed of leaders. If someone will not try a well-founded idea about exercise as an integral part of a general study plan, or the creation of huge colourful summarised wall-charts to pull together a syllabus, what chance they will positively lead the next generation of hopefuls when back in the business environment?

The lie prevails; it worked for the Luddites, it works for me. If my grandmother didn’t do it in the classroom I’m not putting it up on my living room wall.

Dr Rachel Roberts of Stanford University completed a study on the psychology of change and reactions of people to it (that was not the title of her paper, it is just much shorter and contains more words that I understand) in 2013. She concluded that more than 90% of those tested were ready to reject new ideas within ten seconds of them being advanced. The bulk of the rejection occurred whilst the idea was still being proposed, and more than 75% of people didn’t move from their initial position of denouncement having heard the full argument.

On the plus side I guess this means that 15% of people must have been persuaded down from their high horse, having initially repudiated the ideas and there are many days that I would bite hands off for that conversion rate when seeking to inspire potential accountants, lawyers and insolvency practitioners.

But why? Why are people so reluctant to try new ideas, propositions that are devised to help them and make their lives better? Much of it has to do with a lack of self-awareness. This cornerstone of emotional intelligence states that to be more completely intelligent you need to have the ability to see yourself in the context of the conversation or relationship.

I was recently explaining to a group of potential Insolvency Practitioners, studying in the last two weeks before their Joint Board exams, that the reason 90% of a class of students studying in a different location towards the same exam lost five marks from a particular question in a mock exam was because they didn’t re-write the keywords of the requirements, spotting that they had to write a paragraph of their answer entitled ‘Further Information’. Beneath this heading they should simply state the points they would raise to bolster their position, aligning this with the facts of the question.

They had lost five marks because of this … some had even failed. It was a BIG point.

One of the students in the room, looked up at me briefly whilst I was passionately relaying this fundamental information, half-focused on me from below hooded eyelids, gave me a look like I had just stumbled up an embankment following a derailment and then went back to his phone.

Later that day during his own mock exam he didn’t write in the ‘Further Information’ heading, didn’t write the ensuing paragraph and failed by less than 4%

… and I am still trying hard not to do a little jig about it.

But him as a future leader of open-minded people who tell themselves the truth? Hmmmmm.

Posted: 21.10.2015
Tags:  blog

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