“Being Wrong” - Book Review
Many of us struggle with, to the detriment of our relationships, being able to say “Sorry”, or “You are correct”, or “Thank you for reminding me”. Yet, most of us, if we are asked, will also claim that our relationships are one of the most important things in our lives. So, why do we put our pride above our relationships? Why do we find it so distasteful to admit our mistakes? And what can we do to make these simple apologies easier to say? This book helped us with these questions and so much more.
The book starts out by addressing the idea of what it means to be wrong. Schulz says, “of all the things we are wrong about, this idea of error might well top the list. It is our meta-mistake: we are wrong about what it means to be wrong. Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition. Far from being a moral flaw, it is inextricable from some of our most humane and honorable qualities: empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction, and courage. And far from being a mark of indifference or intolerance, wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change. Thanks to error, we can revise our understanding of ourselves and amend our ideas about the world. Given this centrality to our intellectual and emotional development, error shouldn’t be an embarrassment, and cannot be an aberration. On the contrary. As Benjamin Franklin observed in the quote that heads this book, wrongness is a window into normal human nature—into our imaginative minds, our boundless faculties, our extravagant souls. This book is staked on the soundness of that observation: that however disorienting, difficult, or humbling our mistakes might be, it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are.”
Schulz goes on to make argument after argument for the idea that we are constantly being deceived… by ourselves. Our brains do not remember nearly as well as we think they do and then simply make things up to fill in the holes, our senses are highly subjective, we are unconsciously influenced by the people around us, and even the order and the time of day we make decisions has an effect on us. None of this is inherently bad. In fact this fallibility is what allows us, as humans, to be highly diverse and creative. What we do need to learn though is that if we aren’t humble about our knowledge we will confidently drive off cliffs of wrongness. Or as it says in the book, “illusions teach us how to think about error. Intellectually, they show us how even the most convincing vision of reality can diverge from reality itself, and how cognitive processes that we can’t detect—and that typically serve us quite well—leave us vulnerable to mistakes. Emotionally, illusions are a gateway drug to humility. If we have trouble acknowledging our own errors and forgiving those of others, at least we can begin by contemplating the kind of mistakes to which we all succumb.”
Learning how easy it is to be wrong has helped humble us a little. It has made it a little easier to say “in my opinion”, “what is your opinion”, and “sorry, I was incorrect”. We highly recommend this book. We hope that it will make your relationships more intimate as you try to understand your partner better. One final quote from the book: “What is true of a story is true of love: for either one to work, you’d better be good at talking and good at listening. Likewise, if stories only succeed when we consent to suspend disbelief, relationships require of us something similar: the ability to let go of our own worldview long enough to be intrigued and moved by someone else’s. This is storybook love in a whole different sense of the phrase. It is not about living idyllically in our similarities, but about living peacefully and pleasurably in our differences. It is not bestowed from beyond the normal human realm but struggled for and gained, slowly and with effort. And it is not about unchanging love. It is about letting love change us.”
We are changing how we interact—for the better. The frequency with which we start a sentence with “I feel” has significantly increased. The focus we put on mistakes, especially our own, such that we can do better in the future has increased. And hopefully as a result future arguments will be met with an increase in understanding that we really don’t have all the information, and that it isn’t until we make an effort to understand each other, that we will really be able to move forward.
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