Interesting Stuff About Conflicts of Interest

When there is a conflict of interest, people can easily abandon their ethics and serve their own needs. Even good people. Not because they are complete jerks (or jerks at all), but because they don’t actually see what they are doing.

In this clip, Dan Ariely tells a story about why you shouldn’t trust your dentist. The dentist has something to gain from selling you dental services / products but you don’t necessarily NEED the service / product. Gray / silver colored fillings are functionally the same as white once yet the white ones tend to be sold first.

The entire conversation is great, shocking actually. But it gave me some insight into why I despised selling supplements when I was a trainer – because someone was gaining from them being sold and it usually wasn’t the person who buys them.

So what?

By knowing that your service providers are capable of shifting their ethics when they stand to gain from a particular outcome that they can influence, you will maintain a level of objectivity that will empower you to make the decisions that are right for you. Keeping this in mind is always the correct thing to do, particularly when faced with the fact that they may not even be aware of their subjective bias.

Their lack of knowledge is actually what obligates you to maintain your objectivity as it serves your best interests and helps them to maintain their ethical identity.

Why is it so tough to call someone on their bias?

As Dan states in the video “once you meet someone face to face it is incredibly unpleasant to mistrust them.” It can seem like (and be received as) a slap in the face to them and it serves as a reminder that we can’t actually trust ourselves when it comes to vetting bull-crap. The second point is true for everyone so the first point is irrelevant – so what if they or you feel mistrusted, the science supports the fact that people CANNOT be trusted when there is a conflict of interest. When someone stands to gain something, there is a very good chance that they will lie without realizing that they are lying.

Your call to action

Stand-up for your best interests. Ask them for the proof when they make a claim. If something is described as better, find out if this is based on evidence or is just an opinion. Educate yourself. Perform your due-diligence before you buy. Learn to accept that bad feeling you get when you say “no” to someone by realizing that you can buy later. Notice the way you feel when being engaged by others and become aware that being manipulated feels like something; if that feeling is triggered, understand what is happening and move on.

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