Benign hypocrisy

In one of Steve Levitt’s interview of Steve Pinker, when asked about strategies for life, he brought up the idea that everyone needs a good dose of “benign hypocrisy”. I’d think that comes across as controversial, for a podcast episode titled such as to say that Steve Pinker manages his controversy portfolio carefully.

Yet when I think deeply about it, I guess perhaps the term bears out of this modern style of calling out on people especially with regards to perceived inauthenticity. Because we are in such a sensitive age, even being polite can be misconstrued as hypocrisy while being rude lauded as authenticity.

So perhaps it should not be called benign hypocrisy but the ability to undertake emotional labour. Basically to put our emotional selves at work in order to practice certain responses that is true to our intentions towards dealing with the situation as oppose to being true to our feelings. In other words, we smile, say nice things and be polite even when a customer is behaving badly or being unreasonable. We may sometimes practice this emotional labour even with friends and family. And the ability to do this work is important because it trains us to show up even when we don’t feel like it – to achieve our intentions, not necessarily to express our feelings.