Source: Unsplash by David Matos

‘Negotiation becomes more productive when each party acknowledges that the other may have legitimate concerns.’ – Malhotra.

It is human nature to believe that the thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes we bring to any interaction are correct and true in their essence; we would not hold these ideas if we did not have some confidence in them. It is paradoxical, then, that in order to learn and expand our mentality, we must first empty our mind. This seems counterintuitive; consider the following.

In any interaction where disagreement of opinion occurs, we are always inclined to support our own ideas and outwardly defend these, pushing our opinion onto another and pushing their opinion aside. We do this in every interaction, and yet, what is the probability that we are, in fact, right in every single interaction? Not everyone can be right in every argument, so, statistically, it can not be 100%. I read once that the wisest of men could not hope to be right more than 80% of the time. If this is so for the wisest among us, it is likely that the average figure is far lower than this.

So, in any disagreement, there could be (at most) an 80% chance that we are right, and yet, we enter 100% of these conflicts firmly believing that we are unequivocally correct. This here is the issue with closed-mindedness and represents a huge number of missed opportunities for learning and expanding our knowledge. What if, instead of seeking to push our opinion onto others as the only correct opinion in a disagreement, we, instead, considered the possibility that we could, very plausibly, be incorrect. With this mindset, we open ourselves to listening to another’s opinion that is likely just as informed as ours. Not closing ourselves off to new ideas presents us with limitless opportunities to gain knowledge and to build connections.

Consider the last time you were in a disagreement about something and the person you were talking to tells you that your opinion was wrong. Did you think ‘Wow, that’s insightful, I am indeed wrong, and this person’s idea is actually correct instead’? Or did you think ‘Screw you. I am right and I’m going to make you believe that I am right’? I would suggest that it was the latter. This is because it is our tendency to defend our opinion to the death for the sake of our pride. The average person lets their pride obstruct their path to knowledge and connections; a wiser person sets aside their pride to open themselves to knowledge-presenting opportunities and to building genuine connections.

So, the next time we find ourselves in a clash of opinions, let us not dive into conflict with the ideal that we will be right and the other wrong. Do not say ‘You’re wrong’. Consider the possibility that we could be wrong, and we might actually learn something from the person we are speaking to. The short-lived, selfish victory that we gain in telling another they are wrong and we are right is insignificant when we realise the potential for growth and building relationships that comes with an open mind and the avoidance of telling someone that they are wrong, which only goes to ruin their confidence and punt the probability of progress.

Empty your mind to fill it. Never say ‘you’re wrong’.

Published by Jack Anderson

Founder & Director of No Extra Source / Undergraduate student at University of Leeds


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