It’s tempting to want to prove you were right all along when everyone else was wrong.
As humans, we’re wired for acceptance. In many Western cultures, being right is a worthy value. In our education systems, we’re taught and measured on how often get questions right. Being more right than wrong advances you up the ladder.
But Mel Schwartz suggests our desire to be right is eroding our natural instinct to learn while damaging our relationships and causing us stress. In Psychology Today, he questions “Why Is It So Important to Be Right? Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?” As a marriage counsellor Schwartz asks folks if they would rather be happy or right? Although most say they pursue happiness, the battle is over right and wrong.
The need or urge to want to be right can cause us to scuttle any chances of preserving or saving a relationship. Schwartz continues, “If I need to be right, and we have differing points of view, that obviously makes you wrong. Doesn’t exactly sound like the stuff of friendships, let alone romantic relations. This compulsion to be right side-tracks our lives and impedes our learning and happiness.”
In her TEDx Talk titled, Why you think you’re right, even when you’re wrong, Julia Galef discusses two mindsets: The Soldier and The Scout.
The soldier mindset is rooted in “motivated reasoning“. She explains: When the referee judges your team has committed a foul, for example, you’re probably highly motivated to find reasons why he’s wrong. But if he judges that the other team committed a foul — that’s a good call.
“Our judgment is strongly influenced, unconsciously, by which side we want to win — and this is ubiquitous.”
The Scout mindset is rooted in curiosity. They’re more likely to find pleasure in learning something new or discovering something that contradicts their expectations. Scouts value the freedom to rest their theories and be proven wrong. They don’t believe changing your mind is a bad thing. But Galef suggests it’s their grounding that sets them apart. A scout’s self-worth lies beyond their desire to be right or wrong. Galef offers an example. “They can believe that capital punishment works and if studies come out that show it doesn’t, they can say, “Looks like I might be wrong. Doesn’t mean I’m bad or stupid.”
Researchers have found these traits predict good judgment.
Our education system is malfunctioning and has been for decades. As students, we learn to avoid the embarrassment that comes from being wrong. Getting the right answer becomes the primary purpose of our education.
Schwartz offers a radical re-think.
“Can you imagine the generative and exciting learning environment that would result from a class that rewarded asking the best questions? If you think about it, the most intriguing questions are those that don’t offer simple answers. Even more, they drive our thinking into greater complexity and curiosity. This would be a most wonderful learning experience. No need to be cautious about a wrong answer. And everyone would be invited to safely participate in a generative and shared inquiry. Children certainly wouldn’t nod off in boredom.”
In the search for enlightenment, “I told you so” teaches you and the world nothing. Having a sense of curiosity, where the fear of failure is replaced by wonder and awe, our children will gain a healthy balance of soldier and scout.
Have an awesome weekend and please be generous! 😄
As always, thanks for reading 🙏