Being Wrong and Changing Your Mind

“He had very few doubts, and when the facts contradicted his views on life, he shut his eyes in disapproval.”

-Hermann Hesse

I was wrong. I took action, or in this case inaction, that hurt somebody close to me. It wasn’t a conscious decision I made, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I behaved inappropriately. What I failed to do was brought to my attention and I said I’m sorry right then and there. It wasn’t something that I had to think long and hard about. I didn’t have to look in the mirror. This one was easy.

I tell you this not to pat myself on the back, but rather to ask a question about why we’re willing to admit we were wrong about our behavior and less willing to admit we were wrong about our ideas.

For example, I know I’m wrong about certain things, but I’m probably not willing to admit I’m wrong about specific things. I shouldn’t say not willing, maybe not without an internal fight is a better description.

I don’t think anybody would ever say, “I don’t change my mind when I’m wrong.” But so many people, maybe most, refuse to change their opinion when the data directly contradicts it.

People like to talk about big ideas that they no longer subscribe to, but they often talk about the idea that they should throw away their ideas without using specifics. Why? Because changing your mind about big ideas is easier said than done.

I tried going through this exercise and not surprisingly, I struggled to come up with something meaningful. Is it because I’m arrogant? Or maybe it’s the opposite; is it because I have the humility to not feel too certain in any of my ideas? Or maybe this is just what it is to be human?

I think we’re more likely to apologize for our behavior than we are for our ideas because it’s easier to admit you did wrong to others than it is to admit you did wrong to yourself.