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4 Ways to Get Better at Being Wrong

“Being wrong is erroneously associated with failure. To be proven wrong should be celebrated, for it is elevating someone to a new level of understanding.” ~Peter Joseph

Truth is an elusive beast. It’s ethereal, but it’s also somehow corporeal. It exists and yet it is unknowable. This is because the truth comprises infinity and any brain attempting to know infinity must reduce it into finite chunks to make sense of it, thus sacrificing truth for “sense.”

But the interesting thing about truth is that you are more likely to be right by admitting you are more likely wrong than by declaring that you are more likely right.

The psychological trick, then, is to understand that you are a fallible creature with a fallible brain perceiving an infinite reality using finite faculties. By practicing embracing wrongness, you will be more open to being wrong which will make you more likely to be right. Even better, by practicing detachment from being either right or wrong, you sharpen your curiosity. When you let truth flow despite what you think you know, you allow it to emerge despite cultural conditioning.

Because when it comes down to it, nobody is off the hook for being wrong. The best you can do is get better at recognizing the hook for what it is so that you are less likely to get dragged away by it. You do this by developing and practicing disciplined strategies (like the four strategies in this article) for cutting the line and negotiating the hook before the Fisherman of Closemindedness can reel you into his Boat of Dogmatism.

The key is to get better at being wrong by being less serious about being right and more curious about why wrongness is inherent in the human condition.

Paraphrasing Samuel Becket here: Ever tried. Ever wrong. No matter. Try again. Be wrong again. Be wrong better.

1.) Rather than certainty, embrace curiosity:

“Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.” ~Bertrand Russell

Curiosity is essential. It is the fuel that launches us beyond certainty.

The only way to kill curiosity is to cling to certainty. When you’re certain about something it closes you up to possibility. It locks you into a dogmatic box. It creates invulnerable walls around your comfort zone which smothers your ability to be vulnerable.

Certainty kills curiosity because it allows you off the hook of your fear of being wrong. When you’re certain you’re right, you no longer have to fear being wrong. This comes as a relief. Albeit a self-delusional one.

As Kathryn Schulz said, “Our love of being right is best understood as our fear of being wrong.” Ironically, your fear of being wrong drives your wrongness more than your need to be right.

And so, you put on airs. You haughtily stand by your convictions. You’re so heavy with uppity self-seriousness that you can’t see past yourself. Even as you’re standing on the razor thin ice of your beliefs, you stomp and bray and leap as if you were standing on concrete.

But what happens when the ice breaks? What happens when the house of cards you’ve built on the quicksand of your faith begins to topple? What happens when you’re suddenly slapped with the truth after a lifetime of being kissed by lies?

Usually, typically, tragically, cognitive dissonance is what happens. Most of us will cling to outdated yet comfortable falsehoods over updated yet uncomfortable truths. As George Orwell explained, “We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.”

A huge part of getting better at being wrong is realizing that we are prone to this cognitive dissonance, to become aware of it, and then to relieve it by choosing curiosity over certainty.

When we choose curiosity over being either certainly right or certainly wrong, we are choosing open-mindedness over singlemindedness. We are choosing humor over self-seriousness. We are choosing humility over hubris.

2.) Rather than an opinion, have a notion:

“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

If you can replace ‘having an opinion’ with ‘having a notion’ you remain flexible in the face of impending rigidity. It’s a way of getting out of your own way so you can better see “the way.” As philosopher Eric Weiner said, “Postpone defining what you see, and you will see more.”

When you have a notion rather than an opinion, you have intellectual wiggle room. You “leave yourself outs” as they say in the Poker wo