Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kathryn Schulz on Wrongness

This is uh-mazing. I am stealing this from the blog of a friend, because I love it that much (thanks, Geales, for your awesomeness).
First, here’s a bad idea for modern living: spend all your time insisting that you’re right.  Trust me, it won’t go well.  For one thing, it’s irritating; nobody likes people who think they’re perfect.  For another, it’s impossible: nobody is perfect. Nonetheless, many of us cling to the conviction that we’re right about nearly everything, from the origins of the universe to how to load the dishwasher.  We relish our own correctness (“I told you so!”), crow over other people’s mistakes, and dismiss those who disagree with us as ignorant, idiotic, or just plain evil. 
Although we typically find those same behaviors odious in other people, most of us are complicit in encouraging this culture-wide obsession with being right.  Consider the way we make business and political leaders of those who decline to admit that they could be wrong.  And consider just how well that’s worked out for us.
Now here’s a counteroffer: try accepting the possibility that you could be wrong.  I don’t mean in the to-err-is-human abstract.  I mean right now, in the middle of that argument you’re having about the dishwasher or the hiring decision or David Cameron.  For most people, doing so is difficult and counterintuitive – and then deeply, startlingly rewarding.  It converts conflicts into conversations.  It fosters empathy for and curiosity about other people.   It gives you a shot at learning something new, which insisting on your rightness definitely does not.  As a bonus, it looks humble, generous, courageous, and wise – because it is.  The world is a messy, confusing, complicated place, and none of us is above getting it wrong.  Accept that, and, ethically and intellectually, you’ve done right.

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