– The Price of Admission
It’s okay to be wrong. So why do we fear it so?
Why do we go to such extreme lengths to save face instead of focusing on the potential gains of being wrong? What factors have conspired to make the prospect of being seen to have been wrong – implied by the act of changing one’s mind – a more unsavoury prospect than continued denial of facts for the sake of what essentially boils down to tradition?
To elaborate, by means of a contemporary example, it’s a phenomena which has been commented on in passing with increasing regularity since the election of the 45th President of the United States of America – If so many people who voted for him still support him, given the values he espoused during his campaign, and given his achievements to their detriment, as well as his general behaviour and temperament since his election, what could be done to change their minds?
Well, perhaps the answer is nothing.
We have all had conversations with people who knew their position before they started, and who would go on to scour the terrain of the subject for any support for their ideas, rather than daring to question their own pre-established wisdom. The vast majority of us would admit to recognising this behaviour in ourselves as well, I’m sure.
The turning point is marked by this realisation. It’s one thing to attempt to support your beliefs, but when you come to the realisation that you are doing so in the face of other evidence, for the simple sake of sparing yourself the perceived embarrassment of being wrong, then the time has come for some real personal growth.
It’s okay to be wrong.
More than that, in fact. It’s a prime mover in how we advance as individuals and as a society. Progression comes at the price of change to the established order of things.
When we allow ourselves to buy into the idea that an admission of a lack of perfect knowledge is detrimental, that we must maintain the illusion of appearing right at all costs – even at the cost of ACTUALLY BEING RIGHT! – we perpetuate a world where influences which seek to expand our knowledge are feared, where science is ridiculed and dismissed, where one person’s opinion is as important as any other, regardless of what evidence can be brought to bear on the matter.
We stick to our guns, even when they are pointed back at us.
Who among us would comfortably admit to defending a position they knew to be wrong? Should we not deliberately seek out conflicting opinions to be sure of the validity of our own positions?
It’s fairly intuitive that this problem could be partially averted by the reader paying more close attention to their opinions and motivations, so I won’t go on to lecture.
Instead, there is a simpler solution to implement, the least that can be done to remedy the situation. The next time you witness someone change their mind, or acquiesce in the light of information they didn’t have, or hadn’t seen in a new way before, take the time to appreciate it. To mention it.
The only way out of this is together. We all need each other’s help to drag ourselves into the future.