Are you more interested in being right, or understanding?

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Mykala +1

In the moment I am definitely more interested in being right. It’s not usually until after some reflection that I can remind myself that most of the things we argue with others about are not a matter of right and wrong, black and white, but are the result of humans having different brains and experiences, and therefore different opinions. Hopefully I can reduce the amount of time it takes me to come to this conclusion in the future… except there’s also this problem that I think having heated, passionate debates can be really, really fun.

Dan McKeown


Alexander Micek

A recurrent theme in my conversations with Mykala has been this: in order to function in the immense complexity of the everyday world, people simplify their surroundings by closing their minds to new ideas. While a very select group of people function by constantly letting their beliefs float, merely colored or nudged by new information, everyone else has a firm set of beliefs to which they doggedly cling, remembering only supporting evidence that passes their way. (“I read one study that said my viewpoint is correct; thus, it must always be so!”) The subtext here is that people have no interest in changing their views: the familiar, no matter how mistaken, is comforting.

And still, while keeping this narrowness in mind, I think during conversations “this person is wrong.” So, the question becomes, are we interested in understanding why this other person has closed their mind? Or are we interested in better understanding the issue at hand? Sometimes, I get so fascinated by the etiology of this person’s “final judgement” view of the world, I forget about the original topic.


I think it gets to be really hard to decide when enough is enough in terms of collecting information on a specific topic, though. There simply is not time in the day to exhaustively research every issue we encounter, and eventually we have to make a decision on something one way or another. I’m reminded of the quote, “Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” If we never make up our minds on anything, we have no idea how to navigate the world.

I think a more interesting question than “why do I think this other person is wrong?” or “why have they closed their minds to this issue?” is “why do they think they are right?” There has been some fascinating research about forcing opposing sides to summarize or paraphrase what their opponent is arguing. This exercise doesn’t lead to people suddenly realizing they were wrong, or to instant resolution of complex issues, but it does lead to compassion and understanding. So often we spend time we should be listening to each other formulating our responses or positing arguments in our heads that we don’t even hear what the person in front of us is saying.

I think somehow people equate leaving space in their understanding to at least hear someone out with being wishy-washy, and I just can’t see how that’s the case. If you aren’t strong enough in your convictions about something to even entertain additional information, perhaps the issue is not as cut-and-dried as it seemed when you made up your mind in the first place.

Alexander Micek

Really liked the part about summarizing other people’s arguments… and on top of that, I was intrigued by the “wish-washy” threat; that someone might feel so threatened that they haven’t the time to hear someone’s thoughts. The truly strong hear, absorb, consider, and THEN decide.

My problem is this: during conversation, I’m seeking to agree with the other person. Subconsciously, instinctively, cowardly… it’s a combination of those things. I’m so eager to avoid rocking the boat, I never end up saying anything worthwhile. I need to find the confidence to say “I understand what you’re saying, and this is nothing against you, but wow are you wrong.”

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