Being Wrong

The most difficult thing in life isn’t climbing Mount Everest or trying to ensure that Congress retains a Democratic majority (yeah I know, we haven’t heard that phrase in a long while). The most difficult thing isn’t changing jobs or getting unblocked on social media (though we have covered all these topics on our site before). The most difficult thing is being wrong. It just plain sucks.The most difficult thing in life isn’t climbing Mount Everest or trying to ensure that Congress retains a Democratic majority (yeah I know, we haven’t heard that phrase in a long while). The most difficult thing isn’t changing jobs or getting unblocked on social media (though we have covered all these topics on our site before). The most difficult thing is being wrong. It just plain sucks.

People have different temperaments. Some of us are aggressive, some want to please, some are happy to be a wallflower fading into the background, some are quiet, some noisy. But we all have a really difficult time being wrong.

The thing is that being wrong is a little bit like the Copernican revolution. Because if we didn’t have opinions, personal narratives, beliefs, we would not know how to orient ourselves in the world; we wouldn’t have an identity.

Yet truth is like a prism. Something happens, and what happens, does kind of depend on which side you’re on. I’m not being an a relativist here, I’m just proposing that very often, we aren’t as objective as we’d like to think.

Right now, you’re reading this article and I dare to bet that there’s probably something that you very badly don’t want to be wrong about.

Maybe you don’t want to think of yourself as being in the wrong in an argument with someone, or maybe you don’t want to be wrong in your opinion about gun control. Hell, maybe you don’t even want to be wrong in a Reddit forum. Whatever it is, I can’t help but think, why is it so difficult to be wrong?

Maybe you don’t want to think of yourself as being in the wrong in an argument with someone, or maybe you don’t want to be wrong in your opinion about gun control. Hell, maybe you don’t even want to be wrong in a Reddit forum. Whatever it is, I can’t help but think, why is it so difficult to be wrong?

We are all told to put ourselves in the other’s shoes, to empathize, to love. But have you ever tried to put on shoes not meant for you? Simply put, you can’t walk. Is this an insincere metaphor? Are we meant to fail to put ourselves in the other’s shoes?

Do you know what it is like to put yourself in the other’s shoes? We are not talking about thinking for about 5 seconds, oh, ok, I see maybe they are coming from this angle. Putting yourself in the other’s shoes is not an intellectual exercise.

In order to put yourself in the other’s shoes, you actually have to stop listening to yourself for a good long while, and try to listen to the other person. You have to stop being protective about your time (the time you’ve invested, the time you’re wasting, the time you’ve clung on to a single point of view, etc.) and give the other person time. That means that when you are on your subway ride home, instead of spending the ride thinking about all the ways in which you are actually right, you give that time entirely over to thinking about the other person being, possibly (oh god), right.

In fact, here’s a controversial suggestion, you might just push aside the question of right and wrong, and just think about what another person feels and what they are saying, putting your own need (to be right) in the backseat. Is this possible?

It seems that it takes quite a lot of generosity to be wrong. If you’re any less generous, you’re usually right (or you think you are). Being wrong requires generosity towards yourself and towards your ability to grow and evolve. It requires generosity towards other people’s valid truths. I would recommend it above anything else in life. I believe that the world would be a much better place if we could all just be a little more comfortable with being wrong. But hey, I could be wrong.

Reader, ever been wrong about something but incapable of admitting it? Or ever admitted being wrong? How did that feel? Share your human foibles with us in our Comments below!

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