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  • Bob Burg

“[Burg] has demonstrated that adding value to people's lives is the way to climb the ladder of financial success.”

~ Fran Tarkenton, Hall of Fame Quarterback and Founder/CEO GoSmallBiz.com

We Rationalize (Rational Lies…It’s A “Human Thing”)

March 22nd, 2010 by Bob Burg

As human beings, we make most of our major decisions based on emotion. Yep, you do it; I do it, and so does pretty much everyone else. And, we’re so emotional about it; we don’t even realize it while in the midst of doing it.

But, let’s take this a step further. We then back up our emotional decision with a logical reason or self-explanation for doing what we just did.

This is known as rationalizing. It’s making our emotional decision, “rational” . . .  at least to ourselves.

It’s been often said that if we break up the word “rationalize” it becomes ‘rational lies’” which are exactly what we tell ourselves.

Let’s look at a few of these type of decisions you and I may or may not have made. Think back to the last house or car you bought (even the banana split… “easy on the whipped cream” since you’re on a diet), :-) your wristwatch if it costs you anything over $30, the number of children you decided to have, and the good or bad feelings you had based on your last difficult conversation. How about leaving a secure job and using your savings or mortgaging your home in order to start your own business where the risk was greater and the hours longer.

Was any of that based on logic? Or was it mainly emotion? My guess is that it was based on emotion, and backed up with logic.

Note: this is not necessarily a negative thing; it’s simply a Principle of Human Action. What would be negative is a lack of awareness of such. So long as we are aware of the Principle and on top of it, it’s fine, and we can monitor and adjust our actions and decisions accordingly.

Practice exercise: watch every decision of substance you make over the next few days.  You’ll most likely find that everything will be based on emo­tion. It will have something to do with your desire for pleasure – or your avoidance of pain. You and I will both do this, and we’ll back up these emotional decisions with our “make‑sense” logic, or, rational lies.

Do you find this true in your life? Care to share some personal examples? In the next article, I’ll tell a story on myself. Feel free to beat me to the punch and tell us one of yours. :-)

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8 Responses to “We Rationalize (Rational Lies…It’s A “Human Thing”)”
  1. Randy Gage said at 7:10 am on

    Funny how we’re mirroring this topic. My blog post today is on how emotions strengthen mind viruses and cause us to self-sabotage our behavior. It’s great to see you getting people to think about how they think!

    -RG

  2. Geneva said at 12:07 pm on

    Thank you Bob….again!

    This is such an important discussion. If there is one thing I have to work on & overcome regularly, it is making decisions based entirely on emotions. Some may say it is a “woman” thing, but I have seen it equally in men. Some can say it is my “sanguine” personality. I have never been, nor will ever be the “Drama Queen”, but emotions in certain areas of my life ruled & wreaked havoc. What is the stat? 80% emotion & 20% logic goes into our decisions? Tiramisu doesn’t count does it?

    I used to have a compulsive shopping habit based entirely on emotions. I worked 3 jobs at the time. If I saw something I wanted, I would buy it, & then schedule myself to work extra shifts to fit it in my budget. Boy have I come a long way!!! I rationalized that I deserved it via the old “entitlement mentality”. This rationalization —rational lies—only added to the stress I was already under. I began my own “self-help” program that offered some results. Then through a process of getting laid off for the first time in my life, enrolling in a budget management program, facing a case worker twice monthly with all my receipts, attending a life-skills class, I learned to totally get a grip. I could no longer justify gardening expenses that were more than my grocery bills for the sake of “extreme therapy of becoming one with the worms”!! At that time I had never, ever created a budget…..I was a “case!”

    In another scenario, I have always been a hopeless romantic, not co-dependent, just in love with the state of being in love???? While I didn’t date for 10 yrs. after divorce, when I did….I “went out” with 4 men at the same time over a period of over a year or more. (I couldn’t say the “D” word b/c it meant more of a commitment was required from me.) At the same time, as the Director of Singles Ministry, I developed an entire curriculum for single adults in several phases of their lives. It rocks!! Maybe my “research” worked for something!

    Anyway…..I am a very strong willed woman without compromise, yet found myself on a very emotional roller coaster. I adored ”this” about that guy & ”that” about the other. “This” made me sick, & “that” was def a weakness in them I would never tolerate! They were ready for commitment & I wore “tennis shoes” daily!

    The only problem was, that while I could intermingle with out any problem of keeping them separate, they could not. I had to consider their “emotions” & I quickly jumped off the roller coaster!

    In business, relationships, spending habits, I had to determine where I was weak & stop the justification — rationalization process.

    Because of the “lies” I stopped believing about myself, I can readily discern that in others and offer guidance of how to eliminate the cyclic patterns in their lives.

    Today I am totally not the same woman. I have to continually strive for improvement, but…..I attempt to exercise better judgement. I believe I had to in order to prepare myself for the success that is happening in my life.

    New wine in old wine skins create a huge mess!
    Change your thinking, change your results!
    I truly appreciate you!

  3. [...] "All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust."-Bob Burg "Just in my second year in business, I'm on track to do over a MILLION DOLLARS in commissions!"-Cal Faber, Agent, RE/MAX – Victoria, BC SPEAKING/TRAINING WHO'S BOB? SUCCESS TOOLS BLOG « We Rationalize (Rational Lies…It’s A “Human Thing”) [...]

  4. Geoff Snowden said at 5:44 pm on

    Hi Bob,

    timely example. Right now I am wrestling with an emotional decision, and yes I am rationalizing the pro’s and cons. I am thinking that if you are feeling conflicted about your rationalising, then perhaps this is your ‘gut’ telling you to take a step back. I guess I’ll know the right outcome after I make a decision.

    I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on taking the emotion out of the equation….although something tells me the emotion is a critical path to the decision!

  5. Bob Burg said at 6:48 pm on

    Thank you all, for your comments.

    Geoff, without knowing your personal, unique situation, the general rule is that, as long as you are in control of your emotions, it is fine. If your emotions are controlling you and your decision-making process, then that is not a good position to be in. It is then a very good idea to step back and go back into a logical base.

    As to your thought regarding whether or not emotion is a critical path to the decision…it depends upon the situation. Again, are you in control of your emotions or are they in control of you?

  6. [...] We Rationalize (Rational Lies…It’s A “Human Thing”) [...]

  7. Cal Faber said at 3:15 pm on

    Hi Bob, funny how today I am sitting at a trade booth at the NAR National Realtors Association Conference in New Orleans quoting you left and right and promoting your Endless Referrals book. That book has helped me so much in my career that I still can’t stop thanking you. We have been selling 100″s of Networking sites that help Realtors or business people connect to other business people and their customers in local market areas. It is a runaways success and I owe a lot of thanks to you Bob for teaching me the basics of Referral Business.

    Anyway, Thnk you so much!

  8. Bob Burg said at 4:05 pm on

    Hi Cal, great to hear from you, my friend. And, thank you for your very kind words. You have always credited me and the Endless Referrals System. And, as much as I appreciate that, it is you who took that information and, combined with your natural inclination to provide value to others, have been hugely successful. I congratulate you on all your success!!

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