Tag: illusion

6/28/10 “Being Wrong”

Good day, team,

This past week, it’s become increasingly clear to me that we do not like
to be wrong. I think this trait is pretty universal. Something in our
nature finds being wrong painful and hard to get over.

As often happens, just as I was thinking about this topic, I happened upon a
newspaper article about a former Portland journalist, Kathryn Schultz,
who’s written a book titled “Being Wrong.” Here are some highlights
from the book according to an interview with the author by Roxanne MacManus
of Willamette Week:

“In her first book, ‘Being Wrong,’ the author reveals there are many,
many ways to be wrong, from when our senses trick us into seeing an
optical illusion to our own memories of events. However, it turns out
that being wrong isn’t as big of a problem as the difficulty we have
with letting go of ‘rightness’ because it forces us to rethink how we
view ourselves and the world.”

In the interview, Schultz says, “I actually started thinking about
being right and how we’re all attached to that experience. I wondered,
‘Why do I want to be right? Why do I spend so much time proving my own

“I have this theory that we remove anything that is positive or
interesting from the category of ‘wrongness.’ We have such negative
associations with the idea of error that if something is good or makes
us happy, and we learn from it, then it’s suddenly not a part of
wrongness; happy surprises, sensory illusions, moments of illumination–
those happen because of wrongness, but we don’t think of it that way,
because we have such negative associations with the idea.

“I think the two hardest things to be wrong about are ourselves and
other people. I was in this relationship when I was 24 that I thought
would last forever. I was completely and totally wrong about that and
it was so painful, and part of the pain is wrongness–the shock in
thinking your life is going a certain way and then having that collapse.
After that, I traveled the world; I moved to New York; I became a
writer. Everything I love about my life came out of the catastrophic
collapse of those beliefs.

“The best part of being wrong is the possibility to come up with a new
idea. The experience of being wrong forces us to explore further, and to
me that experience of surprise and confusion, which can be disorienting,
it makes you see the world in a new way, and suddenly everything is new.”

I thought back to some of the difficult experiences I’ve had over the
past few months in my work and private life. In each case,
I thought I’d done something wrong or someone was telling me I was
wrong. This wrongness never fit with my imaginary picture of who I
think I am–in my work or as a friend or loved one. In each case, I was
disillusioned about my own sense of rightness and defended it in a
variety of ways to prove that I was not wrong. Never mind any lessons I
learned from being wrong, or new ideas I came up with once I realized
something wasn’t working: My insistence on being right was predominant.

This week, observe what happens in your interactions with others when
you’re trying to be right. Do you often correct others when you think
their facts are not right? Do you feel compelled to control a situation
to make it right? How about trying to make other people right?

Conversely, see how it feels to be wrong. What happens in your body
when someone points out that you’re wrong? Does your chest get tight?
Do you feel short of breath? Do you immediately become angry
or depressed? Do you become defensive?

Once you’ve observed the situation, experiment with not fixing what’s wrong.
Try not correcting others for a day or two to see how it feels.
Maybe you live with something that’s wrong for a few days, just to see
what can be learned from the experiment. If you’re editing a document,
you could intentionally not correct a misspelled word, just to see how
that makes you feel. Perhaps you could allow family and friends
to be wrong about something without offering a suggestion about how to make it
right. Or maybe you admit that you’re wrong and leave it at that.

On a larger scale, take a look at the belief you may hold about yourself as
being right most of the time. Why is that so important? Are you
preventing yourself from learning new things or having new experiences
because you’re tightly holding on to your image of yourself as being
right? How about having the courage to admit when you’re wrong and then
not beating yourself up internally because you were?

One of my clients said to me recently, “I’m not afraid to tell you when
I’m wrong. This is liberating for me. It gives me a brand new way to
look at things and opens up more possibilities for me.” This week, I
hope more of us can have this experience.

Have a good week!


*The quotes used in this challenge come from an article entitled,
“Hotseat: Kathryn Schulz, A former Portland journalist explains why
sometimes it’s right to be wrong.” by Roxanne Macmanus for the
Willamette Weekly.

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