He was interviewing for his desired job. He was asked about his weakness. He had recently undertaken an exercise to evaluate his emotional quotient, and knew that one of his weaknesses was defensive reasoning. He was a little surprised by that though as he considered self-introspection and continuous learning as his key strengths. Why the dichotomy then, he thought? He read a lot on the concept, understood, and built awareness about himself in the process. But more importantly for that moment, he had a good answer.
Defensive reasoning is so common to all, so pervasive that we don’t even realize that we engage in such behavior. It is predatory. Some may argue that to reason in your defense displays a critical line of thinking. But, it inhibits learning. It is usually the result of a fear of ‘not-being-good-enough’ for a certain task, a fear of failure, and/or a fear of embarrassment from admitting a mistake. Many successful professionals have seldom failed. As such, they don’t know how to handle themselves when things go wrong. When these professionals fail or experience an unfavorable situation, rather than accepting and learning, they try to reason themselves out of failure and shift the blame to extraneous factors. It is called ‘single loop’ learning – a behavior common in most successful professionals. Given that these professionals mostly succeed in their academics and work endeavors, they suffer from path dependency. As such, it is very difficult for such professionals to unlearn and relearn, i.e. engage in ‘double loop learning.’