Thoughts on Leadership is the brain child of Paul Bridle. This is the place that Paul shares his monthly thoughts.

Faulty Reasoning – The Slippery Slope

Posted: August 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Get TOL in three ways; reading, watching orlistening. The video and the audio versions are available as a free download either directly or via our podcast. You will find the RSS feeds at either: for the video version or for the audio version.

Hi, and welcome to another Thoughts on Leadership.  I have entitled this one ‘Faulty Reasoning – the Slippery Slope’.  There are many reasons why you can have faulty reasoning.  But this particular one that we are going to focus is about a type of reasoning that people can have.  It is so subtle, so slight, that you don’t realize it., particularly because it doesn’t always have an immediate impact on you, and so it slides away from you.

Let me try to give you an example without trying to pick on anybody in particular.  Let’s take for instance, a smoker.  A smoker will reason that this one cigarette won’t kill.   And the truth is that ‘one’ won’t kill them.  Maybe a person is eating fatty foods; they will reason; well this packet of chips won’t affect me, or this burger is not going to kill me, and they are right that ‘one’ will not kill them.   However, the compounded effect of continuously doing such actions could ultimately kill them.  So we are not talking about the one bit of judgment, which is about a specific instance.  It is about that judgment re-occurring on a long-term basis.

If we look at another example; say that you are somebody who is very careful about the way you drive.   One day just about the time you were due to leave the office you get a phone call from your partner “Please get home little Johnny’s had an accident, can you get back as quickly as possible”.  Now you are worried, you are a bit uptight.  You get into the drivers seat and you drive faster than you do normally.  You say to yourself;  ‘Yeah, I know I shouldn’t be driving this fast but I’m in a hurry, it’s extenuating circumstances’, and you drive a little bit faster.  You get home, Johnny, as it happens is OK, everything is fine.  The next day you are getting into the car and you think, ‘You know something I went a little bit faster yesterday and it was OK.  Maybe I can just drive a little bit faster, not as fast as yesterday but a bit faster than I did the day before’.  And so then you find yourself going faster, and then you find yourself saying; ‘Well I could go a little faster than this but still not as fast as I did that day’. The individual judgments are not wrong necessarily, but collectively they start to compound and take you in a specific direction.

We can do this in the workplace.  We get angry with somebody, and justifiably angry.  Let’s not pretend, we do sometimes; there is a reason to get angry with people.  But then you go well, guess what, the person reacted the way I wanted them to.  Maybe I should react the same way next time, and it made me feel good!  So you take each instance and start saying, ‘well that justifies doing it again, and again, and again’. And so we develop faulty reasoning because we are actually collecting evidence, which is saying; ‘Hey! this is OK, it’s all right’. OK, I smoked that cigarette, and I didn’t die.  I had that burger, I didn’t die.  I drove that little bit faster, I didn’t die.  I shouted at that person, and nothing happened in the business that was negative.  So we can very quickly get into this reasoning, which justifies what is actually ‘false reasoning’.  It’s embedded our false position.

So my questions for you this month:

  • Are there any areas that I am falling into this trap?
  • What I am asking you to do is to be very objective and take a big step back from yourself and say:  What areas, if any, have I developed this creeping faulty reasoning?
  • Reflect back on some of your previous ways of dealing with things, and ask: Why am I no longer dealing with them in that way?

Now there will be times when you are not dealing with them that way because there is a justifiable reason to change.  And those are not the times I am talking about.  I am talking about the times when you don’t realise that you have changed, or you may subconsciously realise it, but not really acknowledge it to yourself because you have been justifying as you have been going along.

Here some more questions for you to consider:

  • What areas am I allowing this creeping change to happen in me?
  • How am I noticing it in others?

It can very quickly happen to others on your team.  If you don’t point it out to them then they are not necessarily going to know it is even happening.  So just a very subtle but very important aspect I am asking you to look at this month.  Consider it in yourself, consider it in others, and find out ‘Am I on that slippery slope because of some faulty reason’, and you have allowed yourself to take this downward spiral.

I hope that has been useful for you this month.

I hope you are having a great time and I look forward to seeing you again next month.


Bye for now.


P.S. – We have some very exciting new projects on the horizon, so please keep reading and we will update you on the new stuff coming soon.

Bookmark and Share

Leave a Reply