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Cognitive Dissonance: Do you really listen and learn?

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

As an ontological coach I like to help people understand the importance of language. No more important is the ability to listen deeply to what others are saying then allow yourself to feel and experience the effect this has on you as fully as possible. This means to hear, feel, think about, and experience the effect it has on you before you respond or react.

If what you are experiencing goes against what you believe or maybe even what you value then this can be very stressful and taking time to process this is important. When you are in a senior leadership position this can be really hard because you (in your fullest sense of being) might not like what you hear, experience and feel and the stress can be very difficult to deal with. If you then start to revert to your ‘stress type’ behaviour then this can be damaging to you and to others.

In his book Post Truth, Evan Davis talks about the period we live in as being full of what he calls ‘Peak Bullshit’. This is what is often portrayed in the political arena and how it is reported by mainstream media. We hear terms like ‘Fake News’ and in our cynicism, we can start to think that all news is fake and we simply don’t know what to believe. This is when we start to get into the narrative about people being disconnected from the reality of the situation which can turn nasty, often be devoid of facts and designed to bring people down or to enable people to continue with an unfounded course of action which others don’t buy into, but are affected by.

Those of you at the top of organisations are also politicians of a sort, and I challenge you to ask yourself if you are engaging in the world of bullshit or are you engaging in real dialogue with others and yourself. Another great book is ‘Fierce Conversation’ by Susan Scott. Its good to read alongside Post Truth because they are developing a strong message about how to really engage in conversations and dialogue which gets to a level of meaning and authenticity that we so badly need in our relationships and in turn our jobs, our organisations, and our world.

Susan’s assertion that: Conversations = relationships is a powerful one. If the conversations are real and authentic then so are the relationships, if not…. well…. there you have it.

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

Have you ever heard of Cognitive Dissonance? Put simply this is what we experience when we don’t like what we hear. It is a conversation that we have with ourselves when we are being told things that do not align with our world view, values, feelings, narrative etc. Cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable and if you are a busy and/or senior person it can also cause to you fall into the trap of not dealing with uncomfortable truths.

Which path will you follow?

One way to deal with this is to surround ourselves with people who tell us what we want to hear. This is the path to the Emperor’s new clothes, the easy path. In reality it is the path into a chasm from which you will never return because when you learn the horrible truth you will be in too deep. I have heard people say ‘keep it real’ and I think this means make sure you don’t lose touch with reality. If you go down this route, then you are probably going to end up in one of the chapters of Evan’s book - Ha!

But if you are really open to feedback and able to listen because you have trained yourself to control what happens in the process of having real and authentic conversations then you might end up is one of Susan’s chapters – interested?

This is where the power of a professional, qualified and experienced coach can really help. Like therapy, engaging in coaching is not for the feint hearted, especially if you want to do some deep work on yourself to improve your inner strength and find a path that use your passions and talents. Deep work is hard work, but it is the best work you can do to set yourself up for the future - IMHO.

Types of Coaching

I specialise in Ontological Coaching and Cognitive Behavioural coaching, both of which work well together and can result in some amazing outcomes. I like to work with people who are interested in following the path to a deeper understanding of themselves, doing the ‘hard yards’ so to speak but ultimately getting to a much more solid and centred base for themselves.

Having said all of that I would also like to emphasis that doing this can be fun and liberating. I find the use of creativity, visualisation, social prescribing and serious humour and playfulness to be part of a plethora of experiences to help people gain a deeper sense of self to enable them to be stronger, better leaders who are internally connected and able to listen much more deeply as I have described in this Blog.

I also recently wrote about ‘Imposter Syndrome’, a blog that I would highly recommend. If you want to find out more about how I can help you with the kinds of challenges and opportunities I’ve talked about here, then please check out the services and blogs at

As ever, I’d love to know your thoughts and please do get in touch. If you like the article please like and share as feedback makes a big difference - Thank you.



Post Truth: Why we have reached Peak Bullshit and what we can do about it.

Evan Davis

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, Once Conversation at a Time

Susan Scott

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