Don’t aim to be right. Aim to get it right instead.


Okay, we’ve all been there.  You see something online and start following related links.  Sometimes these are a waste of time, sometimes they bring up excellent information, and sometimes they’re just rabbit holes.

Recently I read an excellent article, “How to Be More Rational This Year: Follow This Harvard Professor’s Simple Be Right/Get It Right Rule” which led to the article “There Are 4 Modes of Thinking: Preacher, Prosecutor, Politician, and Scientist. You Should Use 1 Much More” which was even better.  (Both written by Jessica Stillman on Inc’s website.)  She cites the writings of two professors, Steven Pinker and Adam Grant.

The articles encourage us to have a different approach to discussions. Instead of trying to “win” your conversation, try a different style of presenting when making your argument.  As Jessica Stillman’s article states, there are different roles you can take:

  • Preacher: “When we’re in preacher mode, we’re convinced we’re right,” explained Grant. From the salesman to the clergyman, this is the style you use when you’re trying to persuade others to your way of thinking.

  • Prosecutor: “When we’re in prosecutor mode, we’re trying to prove someone else wrong,” he continued.

  • Politician: It’s no shock that “when we’re in politician mode, we’re trying to win the approval of our audience.”

  • Scientist: When you think like a scientist, “you favor humility over pride and curiosity over conviction,” Grant explained. “You look for reasons why you might be wrong, not just reasons why you must be right.”

We live in a country that has become polarized and a county that has too many people locked into their positions. I am saddened when I talk to folks who’ve stopped talking with their parents and neighbors because of who they voted for, whether or not they got vaccinated, and far too many other topics.

I think the solution is for us to try getting to where we can civilly discuss issues.  One of my neighbors still has his Trump posters proudly posted on his fence line — the likelihood that we’ll agree on many (any?) issues is not strong.  Having said that, I still smile and wave when I see him. If I’ve made a batch of jam or cookies, I’ll occasionally take him some.  While we’re not going to have a pleasant discussion about the last election — we can talk about things like how to kill a rattlesnake,  poor Internet availability, or how much of a fire break we need.  If I become aware of a way to help his family, I will do it.

If our discussion gets into an area where we disagree, I try to remember Adam Grant’s and Steven Pinker’s advice and answer using facts and leave off lecturing or feeling morally superior.  If it’s an area where I’m pretty darn sure we’re diametrically opposed, I usually tell him that we’re not going to agree and change the subject.  Every so often, we actually have a useful, friendly discussion.

Is he ever going to vote Democrat? Nope, but at least he’s learning that we can occasionally talk to each other.

I’d like to encourage you to consider Professor Pinker’s and Adam’s approaches to discussing topics.





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