How to Hone Your BS-Detecting Skills

This one was too good not to pass along.

Succeeding in business is all about accurately analyzing information and then making smart decisions. Falling for BS is antithetical to both. But with the world awash in half-truths, partial distortions, aggrandizing exaggerations and out-and-out lies you’ll have plenty of opportunities to fall prey to other people’s bull. How can you protect yourself from being led astray by their nonsense?

Washington, DC based venture capitalist Don Rainey penned a post for Business Insider’s War Room offering six suggestions to help you hone you BS detecting abilities. The piece is well worth a read in its entirety, but here are the basic suggestions with a few tidbits of my own thrown in:

  • Determine what serves the other person’s self-interest. Whenever someone is presenting a point of view, you owe it to yourself to consider how their opinion might correlate to their own self-interest. After all, there must be some reason they have to make the argument to you in the first place. And that reason more likely correlates with their own self-interest than with yours.
  • Question the data. We live in a world of pseudo science, skewed sample sets and anonymous experts. Don’t accept anything as an important truth without first examining the source. Know enough to know the difference. After all, 87.3% of all statistics are made up!
  • Watch for truth qualifying statements. “To tell you the truth” or “Let’s be frank” or “I have to be honest…” are all statements that beg the question – “Are we starting to be honest just now?”
  • Listen for name dropping. Credibility should always be derived from the strength of the argument, known facts and/or the reputation of the person present. If absent prominent people are the backbone of an argument, you should be suspect.
  • Notice confusion in response to logical counterpoints. This type of response is meant to undermine your confidence in the soundness of your counter argument without seeking to specifically or factually oppose the point itself. Watch out for confusion when there should be none.
  • Beware of the obvious. If a conversation provides you with one obvious thought after another, wait for the end of the train of thoughts as it is typically an illogical conclusion. After getting into a “yes…yes… yes…” rhythm, you may easily accept a well placed random conclusion or mistruth.
Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.