After an attentive reading of The Arbinger Institute’s* internationally well-known book, Leadership and Self-Deception, Getting Out of the Box, the reader experiences a change to an outward mindset. This is a MUST read book for anyone in relationship, because leadership is elementary to relations, whether at home, at social events, or at work. Leadership is not something we do over other but is who we are in our connections with others. We are in relationships. And in relationship, there must be responsibility and accountability to the other.

“To thine own self be true” is a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act-1, Scene-iii, lines 78-82)*. “Polonius’” statement continues: “ … and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.” Our book in question explores this human anomaly, because self-deception is so commonplace with us, that we are quite unconscious how much we engage in it. We are basically blinded to our inner intentions and motives that deceive us about our importance in relationships that essentially undermine our goals and often isolate us from others.

Who of us has not treated another person with disrespect as in driving a car when someone tries to cut in, especially in heavy travel when we are in a hurry; or in an elevator with the doors automatically closing and we spot a hand attempting to interrupt the closing. Do we allow the intruding person to delay us a few more minutes or do we consider such a person as an annoyance, a thing of lesser importance than us? There is little difference between empathy and human respect, regard for another as a person. Empathy seeks to converse with the other person as respect tends to give acknowledgment of the presence of the other. We can choose to recognize the other as people or ignore him/her as an object to be dismissed.

Sometimes it gets more involved in the dismissing if we strike out at the intruding person as a threat. It all started at the beginning when Judeo-Christian writings put the first two people together in a garden.* We know the story but it’s interesting how the deception unfolded. When God came looking for Adam, Adam claimed he was hiding because he was naked; a bare-faced lie to cover up his mistake. When challenged, Adam, in a smug self-justification, blamed God for giving him a poor choice of a partner: “The woman you put here with me gave me some fruit.” And the woman blamed the serpent, too. The blame game started from day one of our humanity and hasn’t stopped. We treat each other as threatening objects that need to be dismissed as ruining our party. It’s their fault. Of course, it’s all lies and self-deception. That’s why none of us are perfect, even though we try to justify ourselves to cover our weaknesses and mistakes.

The Arbinger book develops its plot in the setting of a story that is true but fictitiously presented for brevity and clarity. By and large we mostly attempt to justify our behaviors by judging others with faults that we project onto them from our own deceptive thinking. We put them “in a box” and blame them from the box we have put ourselves in. This is the reality to which we hold them and ourselves. It’s only when we can step out of our boxes and see them and ourselves as real people, that we can let them be who they are, so that we can be who we are.

The whole point of the book is to underline our responsibility to ourselves and to others in our relationships of truth. We are innately responsible for everything we do and say. We call each other to responsibility by the very fact that we agree to a relationship, whether friend-to-friend, marital, parental, employee, manager, supervisor, or boss. We are committed to the results of what the relationship entails. Mistakes can happen and we deal with them honestly without self-justification at the expense of the partner or other. When we use the blame-game to self-justify, we build boxes around each other to resist the truth of the relationship.

It takes truth and courage to “get out of the box” and be truthful with self and with others. Many times that must start with asking for forgiveness; certainly it must happen in the atmosphere of openness to personal change in self and others. “In the box” means an inward mentality in which the boxed in person is self-referencing everything; “out of the box” is the person with the outward mentality to be open to the truth in the honest reality of the differences in people and willing to deal with those difference without judgment.

The book evidently explains the issue better than this blog does, so the reader must pick up the book for the real thing. The book has to be read in its entirety, including the appendices to capture all its worth.

Take away from this blog: Please read the book and share it with your significant others at home, at events, and at work. This is really a liberating book, especially in this time of such discord and animosity. Once having read the book, start putting it into practice.


  • Arbinger Institute, Inc., 3rd Ed. (2018); Leadership and Self-Deception, Getting Out of the Box, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Oakland, CA.
  • To Thine Own Self Be True
  • Book of Genesis 3:1-24; The Holy Bible.