How to Know When You are Wrong (and What You Can Do About It) [Mind Hacks]
HOW TO KNOW WHEN YOU’RE WRONG (AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT)
We’ve all met a person who is always right, and we know how annoying they can be because they’re often wrong. There’s little that’s more annoying than arguing with somebody who is clearly mistaken but won’t admit it. The problem is, sometimes we’re the ones in the wrong and we don’t realize it. Everyone has the capacity to become stubborn and unyielding, but you can also notice when that happens and stop. Here’s what you can do to recognize and admit fault when it is your own.
Title photo by Ding Yuin Shan.
FIND THE COMMON DENOMINATOR
When an argument arises, it generally isn’t pleasant—especially when people are disagreeing with what you believe is right. But if they are correct and you are not, you’re going to see these arguments resurface again and again in different forms. You’ll continue to believe you’re correct, but others will try new things to change your mind. If you notice you’re repeatedly making the same argument again and again, you’re the common denominator in this situation.
If you make the discovery that the problem is consistently revolving around you, it’s time to consider that you may be wrong. Look at why you’re making the argument you’re making and try to look at it objectively. Does it make sense, or are you just holding on to it because you don’t want to let go of your idea? When we become emotionally invested in an idea we have a very hard time letting it go even if the idea is terrible. Every time you have an argument, the best thing you can do is look at why that argument happened. You might not discoverthe reason initially, but if you make a habit of considering why you might be at fault (in addition to considering the other possibilities), you’ll be more likely to see when you are actually the one who is wrong.
LOOK AT A SITUATION’S POTENTIAL OUTCOMES
Right and wrong are a matter of opinion, or a product of hindsight. They really don’t exist outside of our opinion of the current moment or as an analysis of the past. When you’re considering what’s right, you sometime have to look more towards the desired outcome rather than your personal beliefs. For example, your own convictions may lead you towards the argument that it’s always wrong to kill a living creature. But let’s say the death of one goat could prevent a small village from starving. Would it be wrong in that case? Some might argue it is still wrong because it can’t sustain a village who will ultimately starve, and others will argue that it is right because it will preserve more life.
This is not the sort of situation you’re likely to come upon in your daily life, but it illustrates the point: your beliefs are just your opinions no matter what, but the outcome is where people tend to settle on what’s right and wrong. If you’re engaging in an argument and you’re simply arguing what you believe, think about where your beliefs will lead. Do you like the outcome? Will your way lead to a better result, or will you simply uphold your ethics but create a poor result? Any of the possible outcomes you imagine may not coincide with the beliefs that you hold. Be sure to consider this when asserting that you are in the right.
Photo by Mike Baird.
DON’T TRY TO CHANGE SOMEONE ELSE’S BEHAVIOR
If you’re trying to change someone else’s behavior, there’s a big chance you’re wrong. This is hard to accept because often times people will behave poorly, or at least not according to the way you feel they should conduct themselves. That said, while you can encourage people to change you are most likely taking the wrong approach by trying to change them.
As discussed in the previous section, consider the outcome. What do you want to gain by changing their behavior? If your answer is “I want them to stop being mean” or “stop stealing my parking spot at work” or anything that’s still about them, you are not looking deeply enough. In the first example, what you really want is to be surrounded by people who appreciate you, so figure out a way that youcan achieve that goal because you have control of it. You can choose to surround yourself with good people and spend less time with the mean ones. In the second example, you want to be able to park close to the door. Obviously you do want to ask the person who is stealing your parking spot to stop because they may just be unaware. But if the problem persists and they won’t change, you need to consider alternatives. Talk to the person who assigns the parking spots and find out if you can get another reserved spot for the person. If you prefer a more vindictive path, find out the building’s towing policy. The point is to concentrate on things you can do to change your behavior rather than insisting that the person is wrong. They may be wrong, but so are you if you’re trying to force them to adhere to your beliefs. Nobody wins in that situation.
CONSULT THE FACTS
One an idea enters our minds it can be difficult to let it go. Not only do we seek out evidence that supports our existing beliefs, rather than making an attempt at objectivity, but we will defend that information even if we know it’s incorrect. Scientific American points to a study that demonstrated this phenomenon:
Psychologists asked college stu