The Joy of Being Wrong
A Surprising and Abrupt End to the Discussion
I recently had two discussions on Facebook
that ended quite abruptly.
Both of them were with people
who seemed quite reasonable,
rational and willing to discuss.
Though we were disagreeing on different topics
it seemed to me like things were progressing nicely.
We were investigating the ideas at hand
and I thought things were going fairly well.
In both cases it got to a point
where the other person simply chose
to not respond anymore.
No harsh words were spoken or anything like that.
It just ended.
In both cases the conversation had gone to a point
where I had pointed out a flaw in
the other person’s thinking.
This seems to me to be at least part of
the purpose of a discussion.
To express different ideas about an issue
and see what makes sense.
And yet when it came time for these two people
to face an error in their reasoning
they simply bailed on the conversation.
In both cases I was not being overly aggressive.
Mostly I was asking questions as is my tendency.
I prefer to ask questions and explore ideas
rather than expound long monologues of my own opinions.
I was telling a friend about these two conversations
and she said to me: “Vivek, people just don’t like to be wrong.”
Upon reflection I realize that this is true.
It’s not that either of these folks were
having to change their entire concept of a thing.
They were small points I had made.
And yet even with that they were unable to face it.
I Used to NEED to Be Right
I can relate to this feeling very well
because I used to be like that.
When I was younger, in my 20s and perhaps early 30s
the only reason I would get into a discussion was to win.
I would try and beat the other person
into submission with logic and reason.
If I ended up being wrong
it was a very painful experience.
I felt less worthy, less intelligent
and less acceptable.
Exploration is More Enjoyable than Winning
Thankfully I have evolved since then.
I have realized over the years that
it is much more enjoyable to
genuinely explore an idea than it is
to win an argument.
No One Wins
In the self-defense community we have a saying that goes:
“No one wins a knife fight.”
This is because whether you stab or are stabbed
in either case it’s a terrible thing.
Better to avoid it altogether.
I think the same thing can be said for an argument:
“No one wins an argument.”
Better to avoid it altogether.
In an argument – communication, investigation
and experiencing a high level of truth
is simply not the point.
This is why I am more inclined
to ask questions than make statements.
The Joy of Being Wrong
It is also why I have developed
the ability to accept being wrong.
In fact I actually enjoy the experience
because when I see an error in my thinking
I learn from it and grow.
Growth is the Point
When I’m discussing an issue with somebody
I would rather be wrong than right.
I’m happiest when someone expresses
an idea that I have never heard before or thought of before.
Gaining new insights into any subject
and especially into myself
is a valuable thing.
The Pain of Being Wrong Comes From Childhood
I recognize that at least part of the reason
we find it difficult to accept being wrong
is because of how that experience was
framed when we were kids.
Very rarely are our children
celebrated for their mistakes.
Very rarely are we told
we are wonderful when we are wrong.
In fact the opposite message
is most often what we receive.
We are less acceptable, less worthy,
less praised and less successful
when we are wrong.
School Reinforces That It’s Wrong To Be Wrong
Certainly the entire school system
is built around giving more validation
to those who are right than those who are wrong.
It may seem obvious that it should be this way,
but in fact I think it does a great disservice
to the development of our young people.
It just doesn’t make sense to me
to raise kids this way because
we take the joy of exploration away from them.
True Exploration Requires That We Allow The Possibility Of Failure
In order for me to change my mindset from
one of defensive, aggressive arguing
to one of interested exploration of ideas
I had to reframe the concept of being wrong for myself.
I had to override the programming of my childhood and of school.
Nowadays when someone shows me I’m wrong my response is:
“Thank you, I see now.
I appreciate you showing me
this more accurate way
of thinking and understanding.”
For us to have a truly open mind and
to be free thinker
we must enthusiastically embrace
the possibility of being wrong.
Seeking Being Right Instead of Seeking the Truth
If there is any part of us that resists
the experience of being wrong
then we will alter our thinking,
alter our interactions in discussions
and even our own exploration and research
in order to maintain a sense of our being right.
At this very moment we are no longer free,
we are bound by this desire.
It is a desire to avoid pain,
it is a desire to run from
the subconscious memories of our childhood.
Give Ourselves the Love We Were Denied
Therefore we have to give ourselves
the love and validation
we did not receive when we were young
so that we can stay in the explorative mindset.
There is so much more joy and power
in this way of thinking.
It also makes discussions much more enjoyable
when both people have this perspective.
Conversations Become Ecstatic Experiences
I do have a few close friends who are like this
and when we discuss ideas it is truly
an experience of ecstasy.
Who is right and who is wrong
become irrelevant and
the joy of exploration becomes the point.
Often times at the end of these discussions
we have learned so much we cannot
even remember who was right or
who was wrong about any given point.
This is a great joy and one I am certainly
not willing to give up for the sake of being right.
This Is Yet Another Reason Why
Conscious Parenting Is Vitally Important
It is so easy for us to rob our children of
the exploration mindset
that comes from a free and open mind.
Every time we punish them for anything
rather than communicate and explore the ideas at hand
we are instilling in them this closed and fearful mindset.
Consistent Support and Encouragement
It is only when their experience is consistently
one of support, validation and encouragement in these moments
that they will learn to stay open
when faced with moments of mistake,
failure and being wrong.
I believe this is one of the best gifts
we can give our kids
as we send them out into the world.