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“Yes, But…..” Hypocrisy in Conflict

Mediation and Business Consulting by Kathleen Kauth.

Conflict situations frequently revolve around people who have gotten very set in their beliefs and very intolerant of others who do not hold those same beliefs.  This intolerance is sometimes shown by verbal and emotional condemnation, scorn and derision.  

The conflict intensifies when the person with the strongly held beliefs violates those beliefs yet doesn’t adjust their stance.  They may continue to denigrate those who do not agree with them yet do the exact opposite.  Hypocrisy can be a significant trigger for conflict.  The phrase “rules for thee, but not for me” was developed specifically to describe this sort of behavior.

Actions speak louder than words

When people engage in this type of behavior, they are ignoring the fact that actions speak louder than words.  The presumption that their reasons for doing something has more merit than another’s leads people to blindly ignore the fact that they are acting in the exact opposite way they preach. 

Yes, but…

When confronted with this hypocrisy the individual is able to come up with a list of reasons why their reason is valid, and others are not.  It comes down to the fact that most people fully understand their reasons for doing something, and if it is important to them, they justify the exception.  The problem comes when they do not acknowledge that someone else has equally strong reasons that are important to them.  

Everyone’s reasons for doing (or not doing) something are subjective.  They are a product of all the individual thoughts, actions and incidents that person has experienced.  They cannot and should not be judged by others.   

Disagree on facts

People can disagree on facts, but when it comes to emotional and subjective reasons for actions it is very difficult to justify arguing that someone’s motives aren’t sufficient.  Here is an example:

Two sisters in a family were discussing airline travel.  One was a strong believer in climate change and constantly virtue-signaled her environmental purity by driving a hybrid car and refusing to visit family on the coast because flying was so toxic to the environment.  When the other sister did visit family, she was shamed and accused of not caring about the environment.  However, when the first sister had the opportunity to go to Europe for a trip — she went.  When confronted about why it was ok to fly to Europe rather than the coast, her response was “Europe is culturally important.”

The real reason is that she valued Europe more than visiting this particular branch of the family.  Values are individual and should not be compared.

Calling it out

This type of hypocrisy needs to be identified and called out when it happens.  Oftentimes people who engage in it are not aware they are doing it.  By identifying it you are giving them the opportunity to shift their stance and align their stated beliefs with their actions.  So, how do you do that?

  • Calm, quiet language asking them to compare their stated beliefs to their actions.
  • Inform them of your reasons for engaging in the behavior.
  • Discuss the difficulty of comparing values.
  • Ask if they can see the hypocrisy between their words and actions.
  • Give them time to think.

It is possible that they will not acknowledge their hypocrisy.  It is also possible they will mull it over and realize that they are not aligning with their values and either change their values or change their actions.  For your own peace of mind, the important thing is to stand up for yourself and call it out when you see it.

PS. When the hypocrisy of the sister was addressed, she was initially stunned to realize what she had been doing.  She realigned her thinking and has since also been to visit family on the coast!


Kathleen Kauth

Kathleen Kauth is President/Owner of K.T. Beck Enterprises, LLC a Mediation and Business Consulting firm which focuses on using Mediation techniques to help individuals, families and businesses resolve conflicts. With areas of interest in Eldercare and Business Mediation, we are able to provide a wide variety of personalized services.   MORE >

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