It’s a classic expression which is both a play on words and recognition that it’s very hard for us to admit we’ve made a mistake.
Kathryn Schulz, author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error,” claims you can’t just admit your mistakes but you must fully embrace them. Kathryn is a self-described wrongologist and writes a Slate series called the “The Wrong Stuff” that profiles how famous people feel about being wrong. According to Schulz, if you want to improve your odds of being right, you have to embrace your fallibility, consistently look for your mistakes, and systematically determine what caused you to make them. Only in failure do we become smarter.
In this engaging video, Kathryn explores the mental process we go through when someone disagrees with us when we know we are right. She posits three separate stages:
First, we believe we have information that the other person does not have and, once we “generously share that information with them”, they will change their viewpoint. We need to enlighten the ignorant.
When we discover the other person has the same facts that we have and still doesn’t agree with us, we decide they must be idiots. Even though they have the right information, they are too stupid to draw the correct conclusion.
Finally, when we find out that the person who disagrees with us has the same facts we do and is perfectly competent, we decide they are deliberately distorting the truth for their own evil purposes. How else could they know the truth and not agree with us?
This should be a wake-up call to all of us. During an argument, the more certain we are that we are right, the more dangerous the situation might be. Fixated on our view of the truth, our inherent bias against being wrong increases the likelihood that we might make a mistake. Essentially we become blind to alternative possibilities. What’s more, it can cause us to treat each other poorly.
So, embrace your wrongness. It might make you right.