5.23.2011

Why being wrong is good for you

Sometimes, there is a certain rightness to our wrongness.
Other times, there is a certain wrongness to our rightness.

Right?

Let's face it.  It's way more fun when you're right.  We walk around all day thinking we are right about everything.  Our fashion choice.  Our food.  Our job decisions.  Our parenting.  Our very sense of self is defined in part by how we consider right and wrong. We're upset when the weather man is wrong. We get defensive when our spouse says we're wrong.  Our kids tell us we're wrong, but I think secretly kids want their parents to be right about everything, to know everything.

So what's so wrong with being wrong?

I feel much better about myself, my sense of confidence, when I am right.  It's satisfying.
I always learn much more when I am wrong.  I might feel stupid or lesser or humiliated or just humbled.  But I'm a better person today because of my wrongness.

That's doesn't mean I think that we should try to be wrong.  I just think maybe we put too much emphasis on being right.  Think about it - our culture tells us that we should seek success, winning, and rightness.

What's so wrong with second place?

I read this article last week on "Why being wrong is good for you."  The writer, Kathryn Shultz, spoke on wrongness at the 2011 TED Conference:



Perhaps we are wrong about what it means to be wrong.

"Far from being a moral flaw, it is inextricable from some of our most humane and honorable qualities: empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction, and courage.  And far from being a mark of indifference or intolerance, wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change.  Thanks to error, we can revise our understanding of ourselves and amend our ideas about the world."

At the close of her argument for wrongness, she shares some thoughts from Benjamin Franklin on the subject, "Through our errors, the soul has room enough to expand herself, to display all her boundless faculties, and all her beautiful and interesting extravagancies and absurdities."

Kathryn Shultz concludes, "However disorienting, difficult or humbling our mistakes might be, it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are." 

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