During our lives we argue with many people about many things. We argue with our parents, with our friends, with our lovers. We argue even when we don’t want to argue.
In each of us there’s an innate mechanism that reacts with “I’m right, you’re wrong.” Even when we are not right.
Sometimes the “I’m right, you’re wrong” bias manifests itself vocally or in action, and can lead to arguments and possibly even fights. At other times it does it quietly, opposing resistance to something only in our heads. Depending on our personality, the “I’m right, you’re wrong” can be louder or quieter. Usually, the more we are contradicted, the louder it becomes.
Even when we try hard to be reasonable and cool-headed, “I’m right, you’re wrong” is still there. It’s in the way we cling to our ideas, our views, or versions of things and of the world.
I think we shouldn’t pretend that we can ever be unbiased or impartial. Much less when it comes to matters that are closely related to us. Before being right or wrong, our opinion or idea is first and foremost ours. It may be intangible, like all ideas, but it is a part of us, and for that reason alone we will stand behind it.
Arguing with people is the last thing I want to do in this life. But in spite of my quiet, reclusive life, I often catch myself doing it. I argue with doctors, I argue with my mother, I argue with my cat, I argue with myself. Sometimes I do it softly, in my head. Sometimes I shout it out loud.
I often don’t realize that I am being right about something until I’ve let out some rage. I often don’t realize that my mind would like me to be entirely right until the argument has been made, the voices have quieted, and I am alone once more.
Throughout history, “I’m right, you’re wrong” has probably killed more people than evilness. It has caused more harm and evil than any other pattern of thinking.
What can we do about it? “I’m right, you’re wrong” is built into our genes. I don’t think we can help it. But there’s something that we can do to make sure this won’t harm others, or ourselves.
We can try not to be too right about anything in particular. Not art, not politics, not other people, not love.
We may believe something with conviction. For example, I believe that not all of us have to go to college to live a good life.
But that doesn’t have to mean that my personal truth should be right for everyone. For many people, going to college is the key to a good life.
I think that as far as the big things in our life are concerned, we can be right only up to a certain point, after which, admitting that there’s a possibility, however small, that we may be wrong, we shouldn’t allow our conviction to become stubbornness.
I don’t think that to live a good life we have to be right all the time. I think that to live a good life we shouldn’t be too wrong too much of the time. That can’t be too hard, can it?
4 thoughts on “On How We Are Never Entirely Right About Something”
If people only had the faintest clue as to how wrong they actually are about almost everything we would be living in a very different world
Yes, we like to be right. We like to win. Admitting defeat by acknowledging the fact we are wrong is a tough pill to swallow. Having debates should be all about finding the right answer, not to win or to lose, because then it hurts someone’s ego and relationships are ruined.
I think that it is not easy to feel completely right when one has empathy. It is powerful to imaginatively enter into another’s thoughts and feelings–to understand them, as if they were one’s own. Just try to understand why. The purpose of an argument should not be to persuade someone to be like another. The purpose of an argument should be to discuss different thoughts and feelings and discover what is (the most) universally true or right. I feel that if an argument is one-sided, it does not solve anything.