"One ought, everyday at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and speak a few reasonable words." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Being "Wrong"

"Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from."
--Al Franken
"Oh, the Things I Know," 2002

It is election season and I am a Facebook user; therefore, I have been exposed to a lot ideas and opinions that conflict with my own in the past few months. This time around, I decided to keep my opinions to myself and observe my own reactions and assumptions when someone thinks differently than me. It has been extremely eye-opening! 

During my observations of myself, I have often reflected on the following fascinating TED Talk by author Kathryn Schulz. I watched it over a year ago and loved it so much I purchased and read the corresponding book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. It is so interesting how very "right" she is about being wrong!  

What I learned about myself from simply paying attention to my thoughts and reactions with the "Series of Unfortunate Assumptions" in mind has helped me to be more tolerant and entertain different ideas without being offended by them. I have also learned to value the diversity of thought out there. It's incredible how we can all experience the same things and come away with as many different perspectives as there are stars in the sky! 

In the past, I have been guilty of making all three of the Unfortunate Assumptions (below). Have you? If so, have you ever wondered why? If you're brave enough to ask yourself the question, your answer will most likely shift your paradigm for the better, like it did mine. Enjoy!


Excerpt from TED Talk, "On Being Wrong," by Kathryn Schulz. 

(Video of Talk in its entirety below excerpt.)  


Think for a moment about what it means to feel right. It means that you think that your beliefs just perfectly reflect reality. And when you feel that way, you’ve got a problem to solve: How are you going to explain all of those people who disagree with you? It turns out most of us explain those people the same way -- by resorting to:

  1. The Ignorance Assumption: They must not have the same information as you. 
  2. The Idiocy Assumption: They have the same information, but are too moronic to put the pieces of the puzzle together properly.
  3. The Evil Assumption: They know the truth and they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes.
This is a catastrophe! This attachment to our own rightness keeps us from preventing mistakes when we absolutely need to, and causes us to treat each other terribly. To me, what's most baffling and tragic about this is that it misses the whole point of being human. It's like we want to imagine that our minds are these perfectly translucent windows and we just kind of gaze out of them and describe the world as it unfolds. And we want everybody else to gaze out of the same window and see the exact same thing. That is not true! And if it were, the world would be incredibly boring!
The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t. We can remember the past, we can think about the future and we can imagine what it's like to be some other person, in some other place.

St. Augustine said, "Fallor ergo sum: I err, therefore I am." Augustine understood that our capacity to screw up - it's not some kind of embarrassing defect in the human system; something we can eradicate or overcome. It's totally fundamental to who we are.

We need to step out of that tiny, terrified space of "rightness" and look around at each other. And look out at the vastness and complexity and mystery of the universe. And be able to say, "Wow...I don't know...maybe I'm wrong."  

--Kathryn Schulz
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1 comment:

  1. Not to be strange, but I found comfort in these words as I am about to head off to my last evaluator appointment. I appreciate you writing this so I would read it.