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​The Lapses That Can Destroy Us

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After one of my presentations on critical thinking, an attendee came up to talk.

In the presentation, I talk about the subprime crisis and its contribution to the Great Recession (or whatever we finally decided to call that downturn.)

Afterwards, the gentlemen came up and began discussing a book on the subject, one that was from an insider and provided insights into how badly things had gone and how little retribution there had been.

We were having a good conversation, sharing our thoughts about the debacle and, in general, talking like two intellectual adults who were sharing and building on each other’s idea.

I then said something to the effect of “I’m not bringing this up as a political discussion, but, in her prior role, Elizabeth Warren had been trying to put in some controls.”

Now, you don’t have to agree with that statement; that is what debate is for. But his reaction floored me. He got a look like the sandwich he had just eaten contained something less than fresh meat.

I quickly repeated “Again, not talking about the current political situation.”

To which he replied, “Pocahontas.”

I like to think internal auditors understand the basics of critical thinking, of logical debate, of using facts and information to put forward or refute a discussion. Saying that, I know we all say things in the privacy of our homes, in conversations with friends, in “safe” situations, that are not the epitome of sparkling repartee and wit.

But I was flummoxed to watch the change in conversation from a reasonable conversation involving critical thinking into one using soundbite jingoism.

Internal auditors live and die by critical thinking. Do it right and you’re a star; don’t bother and you wind up in the trash bin of your organization’s history. And the more we let these logical gaps creep into our everyday conversations — heck, the minute we let them creep into our conversations with other professionals — the more likely it is those lapses will occur again and again (and again and again).

I guess my warning to everyone is this simple. Be careful out there, trying to keep your brain somewhere nearby every time you speak. 

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