Another extract from the book…
You will learn much more by being open to others and their ideas than by trying to prove yourself right. Does it really matter if you’re right, anyway? Rather than ‘winning’ the argument, wouldn’t it be better for both sides if you learned from each other, ultimately producing a better overall point of view?
This might sound alien to you, especially if you’re a high-achiever, but being ‘right’ is a mug’s game. It’s pure ego. If you do end up arguing with someone, try pausing and looking inward. Ask yourself: “What am I trying to achieve right now? What is the root of my behaviour?” Usually you’ll find you simply don’t want to be “wrong”, because that makes you feel inferior to the other person. And that stings. We often disguise this behind a sense of morality but the truth is the majority of the time we’re simply trying to avoid feeling lesser in some way. Be mindful of your thoughts. Search your feelings. You’ll work it out. Maybe proving yourself right is just a phase you need to go through.
It took me 26.5 years, a handful of damaged friendships, countless Facebook blockings and a few dozen 100-comment long Facebook debates to let go of the need to be right. Time is precious. Don’t waste it.
Be open, so far as your thoughts and feelings allow. In his famous Libertarian essay, On Liberty, JS Mill defended free speech. He argued that if we were right, a debate with an opposing point of view would ultimately reinforce our convictions. Or, if we were wrong, we would form a more truthful synthesis by combining our opponent’s ideas with our own.
I’ve never experienced as much personal growth as in one month of my lfie where I made it obligatory to talk to every single person who I found intimidating. It didn’t matter who it was, or why they scared me, if I found myself naturally shying away from a person I HAD to walk right over to them and start a conversation. The people tended to be those of whom I’d had limited or scarring experiences of in the past: goths, extremely glamorous women, men who were more physically imposing than me. Regardless of who it was, each conversation broke down some barrier in my mind, and maybe 1 in 50 had an outcome that wasn’t overwhelmingly positive.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: If someone has a gun or some other means of putting you in danger DO NOT approach them as a means to improving yourself. RUN AWAY!
Extreme cases aside, cast your net wide. Do things you haven’t done before. Explore ideas you’ve never heard of. Challenge yourself to talk to people you wouldn’t normally associate with. Chances are, you’ve got more to learn from them than anyone else.