Codruta Marin

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Why do we always have to be right? How can we learn to accept that we aren't, while understand others?

This is very broad as a topic, but basically more and more I see people around me that are only worried about whether they are right or not. It's never so much as to share a cool idea with people, or get into a new interesting project, but much more whether they are right or not, and getting people to ''follow'' their lead. Of course, I am guilty of this trend behavior as well, and that's why it bothers me so much. It seems that when we have a belief, we are so blinded by it that we forget anything even remotely different. We just want to be right - whether that means that we're unhappy, or overworked, or ignorant - doesn't matter as much. We close up to other ideas around us that could help in everything we're doing, and we're shying away from the alternative answers from fear it won't line up with OUR opinion.

My question to you is: how can you transform yourself and people around you to be more open-minded? To inquire more, and not be afraid to admit something like ''I don't know'' or ''I don't have it all figured out yet''.

Think about religions through time and how much harm the crusades have done. Witch hunt, 9/11... the list goes on. However, Faith is inherent to human nature and a positive thing overall, but how do you believe in something without taking for granted that it's the only truth out there? And how do you say ''I don't know the ultimate answer'' without being taken for a pushover/stupid/lost?

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    Mar 8 2011: To me it is exteamly important, to be right as often as possibel. Eaven if I have to change my opinion.
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      Mar 8 2011: Philipp, I am not sure whether or not you are making this point with humour but either way it is a great point. Perhaps we need to remember that we would all hope to be right-in the sense that it indicates that we are trying to see the world clearly, truthfully and with our best efforts -accurately- and succeeding in that attempt.
      Maybe many people wish to be right so that they do not contribute to wrong.
  • Mar 6 2011: Good question!

    I think that the desire to be right is largely ego driven, therefore, in order to get people around you to be more open-minded we must some how make an effort to validate the other's truth. The validation of another's truth or perspective, whether you agree or disagree with it, tells the other person that their perspective matters. When we discredit or debunk another's point of view in an effort to make our perspective or position more valid, we alienate the other person.

    I personally like to look at the process of sharing information and personal opinion or belief asa two way street - sometimes concensus is achieved, sometimes not, but for harmony to exist each of our perspectives must be validated or at the very least respectfully challenged. In respectfully challenging another's view, we must be careful not to discredit them in the process - a perspective can be off base but that does not make the observer a fool. If we are convinced that we are correct on a matter, perhaps we have a responsibility to educate not chastise?
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      Mar 8 2011: David.................You hit the nail on the head. Of course, it is ego.....not caring enough to be respectful.
  • Mar 7 2011: how to make people more open minded is a very challenging question in my country now Egypt and in my work as a psychiatrist. I think that it is important to believe in your ideas but the problem comes when you lose the boundry between yourself, your self respect and your idea. In other words, we have an old saying is that my opinion is right but yet may be wrong and your opinion is wrong that can turn out right. If one agree that there is no point of view that is absolutly right or absolutly wrong he can always have the tolerance to discuss different opinions with an open mind to change.
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      Mar 7 2011: "When you lose the boundary between yourself, your self respect and your idea". Well said!
  • Mar 6 2011: Any exchange of ideas-no matter the forum- is a great venue. Right or wrong really has no bearing until or unless a logical answer is reached. Many forums, that do not have the degree of knowledge that this one supposedly does, have produced enlighten answers to many pressing questions in today's world. It's having the good graces to reply in a helpful way rather then harmful.
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    Mar 6 2011: My guess is that we all bring our best thinking to bear on most of our thought out opinions. If we are not right, that challenges something within us to break and rebuild a schema. People push back in the appearance of declaring that they are right to decide whether or not that new informaiton can be assimulated into their world view or if it necessitates restructuing of their thinking processes either in part (less threatening) or in whole (which would be very threatening). Over a lifetime, people have much invested in their perceptions of life. After all most of their decisions and actions are based on this interpretation.
    It would be great if people welcomed new information but we reduce things to schemas and to stereotypes to conserve our thinking energies. Most people do not want to rethink what they have already 'thunk' through.
    It would be great if we all had more permiable schemas and stereotypes but when others do not, perhaps understanding why they are rigid, defense or hostile will make our lives easier.
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      Mar 6 2011: You are so right!! I loved what you said, that people are not only scared they are wrong, but scared they have been wrong all this time. They would have to rework, potentially a lot of their world view...
      It strikes me that an accurate world view is less work in the long run :) Things simplify themselves rather well when they make perfect sense.
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        Mar 7 2011: The one thing that we all need to remember is that we only see the world and our own experiences through the tiny lenses of two eyes and our senses and from an isolated vantage point on the planet. We are all the blind men trying to figure out what the elephant is from the only informatoin we have- the single leg, the tail, the wall of a torso. An accurate world view takes a lot of work, discernment and open mindedness.
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      Mar 7 2011: Yes, indeed, basic psychology course totally agrees with you. It's not only being proven wrong on a certain topic right now, but realizing how your whole life is based on something that is untrue.

      There's this quote: Sometimes, in order to be happy, you have to give up being right. I think it's exact. It might hurt us to change our thinking process and realize there is something else out there, but in the end, if we stick to our (flawed) opinions it might lead us to frustration and unhappiness. I don't know.

      I also envy people that are so focused on their way of doing things and are SURE that is the way to go. They might never have to endure a change in that concept - and will live with some unhappiness, some frustrations, a bit of joy, but they never doubt themselves or their beliefs - and somehow I think they live a much easier life than someone that's always questioning and discovering. No?
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        Mar 7 2011: I love the honesty of your final lines in this post. In answer, I too have noted and envied those people who never experience self doubt until I observe what it normally does to everyone around them. I am not sure that ignorance is bliss in this case. In the recent TED talk by Norren Hertz on experts, she refers to the way we defer to experts and turn off our own discernment. I think this is part of that phenomenon. The person who appears to be the most certain gets to lead and too many follow blindly.Once they have control they can lead to places where no one want to go- like war.
      • Mar 7 2011: people need always to question what they are doing , not their intentions or their capabilities but am I doing what I should be doing at this moment??
        this is the question... and it will always gives u the power to be open minded enough. However, this does not mean to have a problem in self respect or selfesteem. admiting that I am wrong or I need remodeling of my target or my way does not reflect weakness but cleverness and strength but it is what we call our core fears that can prevent us from change or prevent us from pusuing our goals.
  • Mar 6 2011: As a youngster, I always felt I was right on various issues, then an event happened that changed my way of thinking: I joined a debate team. I then started being around folks that had degrees in fields that I enjoyed. I quickly learned to say: "I don't know". That lesson has been with me ever since. But you can believe I try my best to find out an answer. Getting various ans. from several people is great too, especially if all ans. are different. For every question there are , or can be, thousands of ans. That is what makes research soooo much fun. I agree, many folks think they are right or worry about that issue, but being wrong can be enlightening also.
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    Mar 8 2011: I think this question is a very important one. Through globalization we are faced with new values that not always are in agreement with our own. The less able we are to listen to each other, try to understand each other and willing to question our own beliefs, the larger I think the risk is for conflicts to arise.

    One thing I have pondered is whether there are cultural differences in how important it is to be right. Are the human mind hardwired to think it is important to be right, or is it something that we learn is important. For example, does traditional teaching have as one effect to teach us that the most important thing is to be able to answer every question correctly. This is why I wonder if there are cultural differences, how important is it to be right in societies that has hardly no educational system at all?

    One thing I have realized about myself is that up to I began studies at university level I thought all questions had an easy answer, and that the hard work was to learn all the facts. Those facts I had learnt however, they where unqeustionably correct. But during my years at university I found myself disproved on a lot of subjects which I took for granted I had the correct answers to. This humbled me a lot, and it tought me the power of realizing that you are wrong.

    So I also wonder if there is any important difference between the teaching at university level and earlier teaching that is important in breaking the spell of having to be correct? Or is it just the fact that for me university where the first place where I spent any extended period together with other people that had a different version of the truth?
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    Mar 8 2011: Good question. Kathryn Shulz and Brene Brown, TED2011 and TEDxHouston speakers, may have given us two good indications.

    Kathryn proposed that we learn at a young age that the way to succeed in life is to never make any mistakes. That getting something wrong means there's something wrong with us.

    Brene proposes that many of us avoid being vulnerable. That we have a difficult time taking the risk to expose who we are as a whole person.

    So, for me, the need to always be right contains elements of fear...fear of not being worthy of belonging, fear of being rejected.
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    Mar 8 2011: I don't think you can transform the people around you to be open-minded -- if there's anything I've learned, it's that you can't change other people; the only thing you CAN change is yourself.

    Sometimes, the trick is to just shut up and let someone finish talking and pausing for a beat before rushing to answer. I think the problem -- most of the time -- is that people don't know how to really listen to each other. While someone else is talking, we're so busy formulating our own answers and thinking about what we're going to say -- often interrupting the other person in the process -- that we lose an opportunity to actually learn something that's valid and important.

    Why do we feel the need to be "right" all the time? I'm not really sure...but how boring is that? If you knew all the answers, then what's the point? There's no mystery, no surprise, no magic to life.

    What we need to remember is that there are a lot of things we can't really be certain of -- sure, we have our beliefs, but who's to say any of that is even right or true?

    I don't think owning up to, "I don't know the answer" necessarily makes you look like a pushover or stupid or lost -- and besides, who cares if someone thinks of you in that way? Does it make you stupid/a pushover/lost? Maybe, maybe not.

    Being open minded means owning up to the fact that you don't have all the answers and that you're interested in learning something -- and a big part of that is about genuinely listening to others and being open to the possibility that you might change your mind about something you used to believe in...and that can be kind of cool!
  • Mar 8 2011: First i would like to say that, today, i was encouraged by two unrelated sources to watch this talk and I am sure grateful that I did!

    Why do we always have to be righ?t... We are terrified of 'not knowing.' The anxietyand emotional discomfort that the state of uncertainty produces in most people is the primary catalyst for... everything we do. From securing our next meal to securing our next paycheck. And, in the context of "being right"in relation to idea's... certainty defines who we are, what we believe... it allows us to feel secure and feel like we arein control of our lives at some level. So, then being right allows us to NOT be vulnerable, NOT feel discomfort, it allows us to stray from the present moment where all our insecurities hangout. I think that when people realize that uncertainty and discomfort are really the epi-center of vulnerability and use these feelings as beacons that direct us inwards, instead of feelings to numb... and realize that through this process we reach the springboard of our creative selves... then change may occur, then, we might embrace our selves and others. The concept isn't new, it is as old and paradoxical as the buddha.
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      Mar 9 2011: I don't know which talk you are talking about, but I hope it's the Brene Brown one :)

      I agree that people are terrified of not knowing - control is a great influence in our lives, and the lack of it puts us in a state of mental discomfort, to say the least. I have experienced it more than once, although I truly hope I am getting better at it - working on it every day.

      There has to be a way to bring more awareness to people and work with them (and of course, mostly with ourselves) to at least diminish this thirst for being in control, as it often means being very limited and inaccurate in our views of the world (includes underestimating ourselves, settling for what we think we're good enough for, blocking our creativity, and more).
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    Mar 6 2011: How to fix it in yourself: Remember you can learn something from everyone. when you expect that, you aren't afraid to learn something from a child, an employee, anyone with a drastically different perspective, etc.

    I like the quote, 'We lose respect if someone knows more than us, but we gain it when we ADMIT someone knows more than us."

    All the world is unknown. Embrace it.
    Revel in being wrong: it means you learned something.

    How to fix it in others: ALWAYS find something of value in what they have to say, and they will often return the favor (eventually).

    I've often found, (even though its silly, and kind of sad) if you can pawn your idea off onto another person (an authority, or even an anecdotal person) people will listen to you when otherwise they wouldn't listen to logic alone. People like an Idea if it was already settled elsewhere. I think it comes off as more humble, and it often lets you take control of a group when it's really necessary.

    Also, consciously bring the conversation out of a two/three option format. suggest something that incorporates good points of other people's ideas. Stand up for their ideas, and do so generously. People will get the idea better that it is supposed to be a collaborative discussion.
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    Mar 8 2011: It is a really good question. Basically the way I see it and I include myself in this, is that for the most part we would rather be right than be successful. It's as though we are hard wired to not show weakness, as though saying "I don't know" may be our downfall. I do believe that this question and it's resolution is one of the keys to moving the world forward. Good topic Codruta!
    • Mar 10 2011: I think you hit the nail on the head with the phrase "to not show weakness". I think another reason is that we tend to dig our heels in incrementally, until we suddenly realize that, right or wrong, there is no way we are now going to back down. If somebody proves me wrong right at the start of an argument/debate/discussion, I back down. But if I slowly come to realize I may be wrong after discussing a topic for hours, I find it hard to say "OK, all my previous remarks were BS, you are right."
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    Mar 8 2011: It's hard to change our beliefs once they take hold. It's an evolutionary adaptation, known as cognitive dissonance: the mind's self-defense.

    I gave a presentation at TEDxCanberra on this topic:

    Being aware of cognitive dissonance and its related biases is only the first step in cultivating the skills of critical thinking.

    Being able to objectively view and evaluate the world is unnatural, but since we created and have been evolving the philosophy of science - specifically to remove biases - we've made great leaps forward.
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      Mar 8 2011: Thanks for posting your talk, Ash. I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the way you outilined the various biases.
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      Mar 9 2011: I really liked as well and definitely gave me food for thought for my next blog post. Thank you!
  • Mar 8 2011: I love this topic Codruta ... It seems to be a matter of being truly interested and authentic. To transform yourself (because we cannot truly transform otehrs, only give what we can) is to really care about what others think and then build your construct around that ... Not change your beliefs, but at the very least understand and take in another's stance and view. Saying you do not know something can put you in a position far more comfortable than pretending to know everything. Our choices define us and if we choose to admit not knowing, as well as actually listening to the opinion of others, that is when we truly learn.

    I think it is a hard conscious effort to transform yourself ... Something you have to actually stop yourself and say ... OK, think about this, and then react. I know I struggle with it daily and get frustrated at those around me who are semmingly oblivious to caring about others.

    I can definitely tell you that on this one, "I don't know the ultimate answer" ... but thanks for allowing me to chat about it. Take Care!
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      Mar 9 2011: Thanks for contributing to my question - it is a hard conscious effort, for sure. Hopefully more and more people will see the benefit of it, as it does open up a whole new bright world.
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    Mar 6 2011: This is definitely the wrong forum to question whether people want to be right or not. Again this is likely a social production we need to clear up. The ultimate answers are in a standard, these standard produce derivative standards that allow new productions of a new standard. If you want to meet people who do not want to me correct, I suggest hanging out at a yahoo forum.
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      Mar 6 2011: I have to disagree here Nicholas, I don't see why TED Conversations is the wrong place to ask such a thing, after all being more open-minded and accepting input from others more are definitely ideas worth spreading. As such I feel that such a topic should be discussed here, perhaps someone has some good thoughts on how to bring upon change.

      Unfortunately, I don't although I would like to know how too as I often find myself in situations where I know I am not entirely correct and yet I do not want to fully accept this.
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        Mar 7 2011: Thank you for the support!

        I don't think it's easy for anyone to admit they are or might be wrong.

        It's also hard to admit you are wrong without losing a bit of your credibility, or so I find. I just don't know if being tolerant with the ''I am always right'' ppl will get you anywhere as they might take you for stupid and discredit you. I guess that's what I am mostly afraid of.

        For what it's worth, being right is a great feeling.