Because You Might Be Wrong

I was speaking to co-worker today, and I don’t ever want to come off in a way that ever sounds like I’m portraying someone in a way that could be taken as negative, but he said something that really kind of bothered me. At least, it made me think a lot about certain things.

So, this co-worker came by my office, and he was helping with another issue that I couldn’t quite get figured out on my own, and since it was close for him to clock out, he said he’d just hang around my office until 5PM, or about 30ish minutes. And I thought, well, if he was going to stay, might as well try to get to know him some more, since I really don’t talk to him that much. And this is how the conversation went.

I started off by asking if he tends to see himself as an open person, or is a bit more closed off. He told me he’s pretty open about most of his life. He doesn’t have a lot to hide, and I said that’s good. It’s good to be open. So then, with somewhat of a green light to push deeper, on I went.

I went straight into a pretty personal question. I asked him, what do you think about intelligence? As in, do you think you tend to find yourself seeing evidence that suggests you might be a bit more intelligent than those around you?

I sort of already knew what he was going to say, but I asked anyways. He, like I expected, told me yes, he does find himself more intelligent than the general population.

From there, it gave me a starting point. I then said that smarter people tend to classify themselves as introverts, though not always true, so what do you think, are you an introvert or extrovert?

Again, to really no surprise, he told me he’s more of an introvert. I mentioned that I see myself as an introvert as well, so we might have some things in common. I then asked him, what do you think of small talk? I recently had somewhat of what you could call ‘a revelation’ and I have a whole new perspective on my idea of small talk.

He was like, I don’t mind small talk. I don’t really have an opinion on it. Then I asked him, well, why do you think you’re an introvert? It just seems like small talk to be the barrier to entry for most introverts to be labelled as extroverts.

Again, he replied with a generic answer, he just likes spending time alone. So like someone who really wants to know, I again pressed on a bit. I said, spending time alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an introvert. It could just mean you don’t have anyone to hang out with.

Then he seemed like he was just about to answer, then he finally said, why do you keep asking me so many private questions about me, some people might find that offensive.

And that’s what struck me.

First I thought, yeah, he’s right. Maybe I might be a little pushy and could dig a little deeper than I should. It wasn’t till a few hours later I really thought, but why? And not why was I like that, but why would someone find asking slightly deep questions offensive?

So I thought about that, and I came to the realization it was because people don’t like having their ideas challenged. Because when you have you’re ideas challenged, you might come to realize, you could be wrong, and no one likes to admit they’re wrong.

I took that realization, and explored it a little more, and I kept making more discoveries, you could call it, and came to this conclusion.

Most people don’t like to challenge their beliefs because they don’t know how to critically think. I really don’t mean this is in a negative way, but more so, people don’t naturally go around the world with the idea, I could be wrong about everything I know. And, I don’t think it should be exactly like that, but it needs to be somewhere close to it. You need to go around looking for people that will properly challenge your beliefs, and that’s because it helps make you smarter.

I would say, most people go through life and fall victim to the dangerous psychological habit called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. In short, they consciously and even unconsciously seek out and listen to information that agrees with their ideas. They seek out friends who are like them, coworkers that are like them, pretty much they develop a world for themselves where they never get too far out of their comfort zone. They never challenge their beliefs.

This is a dangerous thing because not only does it stop you from continuing learning properly, but when someone actually does come around with a belief that differs from yours you tend to get more aggressive in your speech to try to defend your ideas. And this is not entirely your fault because in a way, you feel threatened, and in way, it’s kind of true.

And that’s what I realized in my conversation with my co-worker. He started to feel threatened, in a sense. He was suggesting that I could be offending him. So that’s when I stopped. I told him it was a nice discussion, and he left me with a lot of things to think about, and hope we could talk again.

I knew I had no chance at convincing him to even listen to my ideas without him completely dismissing them.

Then I realized, that’s how everyone thinks. The only reason most people tended to listen to my deep thoughts were because I was saying something that tended to resonate with them, but if I were to say something that they didn’t believe, they’d probably start to get a bit uneasy.

That’s how it is with a lot of people I talk with, and I finally started noticing it. People will agree with you, up until the point they don’t. Then they dismiss you.

I guess what people don’t realize is that I want them to disagree with me. Not because I like arguments, but because when we both figure out why we disagree, then we can start making progress together.

We work to solve problems. We collaborate.

So, final words. Just because someone might disagree with you, and even challenging you a bit in your beliefs, it might not be out of malicious intent, or even for the sake of arguing, but it could be because you might be wrong.