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Changing Your Mind

2 min

Note: I'm on vacation, so I'm posting some of past writing that never made it to the web. We'll be back to our normal programming next week. Cheers.

"What would it take to change my mind?"

I’m often fascinated by opinions - and why we have them.

It’s very common to look at other people - say, on the other side of a political debate, as perhaps our most immediate example - and wonder what could possibly be wrong with them.

How could they possibly think that?

Of course, they are thinking the same about us. And around and around we go.

Here’s the thing - The above is not a particularly enlightening or novel viewpoint. You’ve heard it a million times. Has it really affected how you see the world?

Didn’t think so. Me neither.

(As an aside - the cliche of "everyone thinks they’re right, and no one is willing to listen!" is often trotted out as an excuse to normalize what are objectively poisonous or irrational viewpoints.

The fact that all people overestimate their own rationality and dismiss alternative viewpoints is not an excuse to put all opinions on equal footing.

Opinions are not facts. Strength comes from being extra-double-super-skeptical of our own viewpoints, not in passively accepting the right of all ideas to peacefully coexist, no matter how odious their effects.

End rant.)

So - we’re aware of the cliche.

We know we’re all prone to pedestalizing our own opinions and dismissing those of others.

The problem is no one ever tells you what to do about it, other than "follow those you disagree with on social media!", which - and I don’t know about you - is, for me, a guaranteed way to make my life miserable.

No thank you.

Let’s think through a practical method, then, of addressing this tendency - and let’s do it in the form of a question.

Pick any one firmly held belief.

Maybe you think single-payer health care would destroy the economy; maybe you think it’s the best thing since sliced-bread.

Maybe you’re an atheist. Maybe you’re a theist.

Maybe you think direct response marketing is scammy and never works; maybe you think branding is a waste of money.

State your opinion clearly; get it in writing. Then ask:

"What would it take to change my mind?"

Force yourself to be explicit:

Here’s a hint:

If there is no reasonable way to prove your belief wrong, you don’t have a rational belief. You have an article of faith.

It is shocking how little of what you believe is open to falsification when it comes down to brass tacks - and I am talking from experience.

Frankly, I find it very difficult to even coherently state many of my own beliefs in the first place so that I can falsify them.

Go through the process a few times, and you very quickly find yourself holding fewer and fewer firm positions.

(I will dig into Karl Popper in a different email, but if you sense his grumpy-looking face scowling down on this email, you’re right.)

Happy questioning.

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