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I am always right - aren't you?

© September 2009 Anthony Lawrence

I had some unpleasant email exchanges with someone today. Of course it was about politics and religion - the two subjects almost guaranteed to cause hard feelings. I'm not going to get into that except to note that it can be upsetting to mix our personal lives with our business lives. It's particularly hard for someone like me who is way out of the mainstream in so many ways. I know full well that I don't agree with most of my customers political views and of course they wouldn't like mine very much either. It's fortunate that our two worlds stay separate most of the time - or I'd lose a lot of business!

This morning's email exchange came because I did let a customer into Facebook. That was a mistake, but on the other hand most of my political views are right here in the Opinion section, so I didn't think Facebook would cause any more hard feelings than those pages. I was wrong :-)

Anyway, as I said, that's not the purpose of this post. One sentence from today's exchanges stuck with me:

"I've read a lot of your stuff and it exudes an I'm always right and I know more than you feel to it."

Umm.. don't we ALWAYS think we are right? Sure, there's room for doubt and sometimes we just say "I have no idea", but if we have reached an opinion on who to vote for or what to do about Pakistan, illegal aliens or whatever, don't we always think we are RIGHT? Can you hold an opinion that you think is wrong? Of course not.

I can certainly admit that I definitely come across as arrogant, confident and as "I know more than you". But let's be honest here: if you've reached a decision, you DO feel you know more than someone who disagrees with you. Oh, you can sugar coat it, you can even say that there is room for disagreement or admit that you might be wrong, but the fact is that you have analyzed the available facts and reached an opinion. You might be very ready to change that opinion should more facts arrive, but right now you are confident that you are right. How could you not be?

I'm reminded of "Often wrong, never in doubt". I don't know who said it, but I definitely feel that way. If that's arrogance, fine, I'm arrogant - and so is every successful person I have ever known. I wrote about that at Arrogance or confidence, where I asserted that you HAVE to be confident to be successful.

As to "I know more than you" : well, yeah, that's part of it also. If I'm sitting with ten people I don't know, yes, I'm going to assume that I probably know more than they do about any random subject. I might be dead wrong about that, and being wrong doesn't upset me, but yes, that is my assumption until I learn differently. Again, arrogance or confidence, your choice.

If you are a mousy little person who always thinks everyone else is better than you are, these words might make you angry. Well, I'm sorry, but that's your problem, and it IS a problem: you aren't likely to get anywhere if you aren't confident and aggressive. I don't mean over-confident: you have to be realistic. If I sat down with ten random people to play poker, I'd expect to win. If I sat down with ten WSP pros, I'd expect to go home broke. Real confidence is knowing your abilities and limits.

So, are you arrogant or confident? Do you know your limits and abilities? Are you the smartest person in the room until shown otherwise?

Good for you. We'll get along just fine. We just shouldn't talk about politics or religion.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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Wed Sep 30 00:43:31 2009: 7008   BrettLegree

Of course you're always right.

And so am I - just ask my wife :)

(Okay, don't do that.)

But I agree with you here - you have to be confident in yourself. You have to believe that you're right, that you can do what you set out to do, otherwise, what do you have?

Sure, there have been many times I've been proven wrong - but many more times, I've been right.

Wed Sep 30 03:03:15 2009: 7009   Mark

It vexes me when people go on and on about their religions when I know that the only correct one is the
Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster - (link)

It's tough being right all the time.

Wed Sep 30 05:18:36 2009: 7010   stewie

There's so much to say on this topic but I'll just make two comments for the sake of brevity.

Analyzing the Facts
You wrote, "the fact is that you have analyzed the available facts and reached an opinion." That's a polite generalization, but this applies more to critical thinkers than the general public. Most people simply believe what they want to believe. An obvious example, overwhelmingly people believe in God yet what irrefutably proves God's existence?

Meeting of the Minds
How is it that 2 people presented with the same information can draw different conclusions? One plus one yields two, right? In simple math, yes, but most everything else is not a simple equation. Other cases are more like 1 + 1 / intelligence + experience + education - bias - emotion - whatever. Reasonable people can dissect these intangibles to arrive more closely to a similar answer. Unreasonable people will never agree.

Even so, while reasonable people may arrive at similar answers, they may still reach different conclusions. For example, I discussed abortion with a friend. I'm pro-choice, he's anti-choice. We broke this issue down to specifics & we were surprised to find that we agreed on most everything. So when it came to reevaluate our position, he remained anti-choice & I pro-choice. While our positions hadn't changed, we learned our principles were similar. We had a "meeting of the minds" & a greater respect for each other's opinion & each other.

Wed Sep 30 11:22:05 2009: 7011   TonyLawrence

Yes, I'd agree: too many people are actually incapable of thinking. That doesn't change the fact that they think they are right.

Nor does my being "right" make me think you are "wrong" to have a different opinion on subjects like abortion. Moral relativism can come from personal disposition.

Wed Sep 30 12:08:41 2009: 7012   TonyLawrence

If we're going to talk about thinking and not thinking, we can't ignore those brain scan studies that showed people first processing emotionally and then apparently rationalizing that decision. I certainly have thought that to be true, but on the other hand:

What if I have thought deeply about something like Bush era torture policies that also make me emotionally angry? Isn't it reasonable to think that the emotional reaction could come first? Also, most of us know (well I *hope* most of us know) that it is quite possible to override an initial emotional response. A simple case is denying yourself that ice cream cone your waistline doesn't need. Wouldn't more complex issues track the same way on a brain scan?

Certainly some issues - religious belief being the most obvious - are always driven by rationalizations of emotional response.

Wed Sep 30 14:55:04 2009: 7015   rbailin

"Often wrong, never in doubt"

Isn't that the motto of Fox News?


Wed Sep 30 15:48:38 2009: 7017   AdamG

You are correct sir! It's like my late father used to say: "I have an answer for everything. It may not be the right answer, but I have an answer."

Wed Sep 30 16:28:57 2009: 7018   anonymous

Tony, your reply is interesting & also alludes to a common issue with debates.

See, I agree with the gist of what you've wrote. And I didn't take issue with your points...because I agree with them. But in response you said, "Yes, I'd agree: too many people are actually incapable of thinking. That doesn't change the fact that they think they are right."

My point is that most people don't analyze the facts, they believe what they want to believe (which we both agree on). I never wrote nor implied that they don't think they're right. So it's interesting you would remark as if I were somehow challenging your assertion when I did not.

You then said, "Nor does my being "right" make me think you are "wrong" to have a different opinion on subjects like abortion. Moral relativism can come from personal disposition."

My point is simply that a compromised resolution is often the best one can hope for in a disagreement. So again, it's interesting to see your reply which again implied that I'm challenging your assertion.

It seems like we're debating points that we agree on. And it makes me wonder how many discussions are sabotaged because of miscommunication, misinterpretation, or just misunderstanding. In retrospect, I should have wrote, "I agree with your post, Tony, and I'd like to add two more observations...."

Wed Sep 30 17:36:05 2009: 7019   TonyLawrence

I understand totally. Your responses just triggered other thoughts from me.

But I definitely think that "many discussions are sabotaged because of miscommunication, misinterpretation, or just misunderstanding."

Wed Sep 30 17:44:29 2009: 7021   TonyLawrence

Isn't that the motto of Fox News?

I doubt they are intelligent enough to appreciate the irony.

Wed Sep 30 18:08:08 2009: 7022   TonyLawrence

And what is this crap about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

The ONLY true God(dess) is the Invisible Pink Unicorn, whose holy hooves will send you to the Mines of Misery if you fail to properly worship her or refuse to acknowledge the One True Pizza, Pineapple and Ham.

As explained elsewhere,

Her Holy Pinkness Shat for your Sins, that you, upon reaching Heaven, will never defecate again! This is the Seventh Mystery, and the other six are really strange and neat, too.

Sheesh! Don't you people know ANYTHING?

Fri Oct 2 03:47:55 2009: 7040   sledge

I could never figure out why someone would expect me to think I was wrong. The statement "You always thing you're right" implies that I'm wrong, but it is usually the terminal statement of a conversation. It occurs to me that, if I am wrong, the person with that belief could prove it to my satisfaction.

This, of course, doesn't apply to opinions. On opinions there is only this:
Opinions are like (let's say) toilets. Everyone has one, they all stink, and no one is willing to look at anybody else's. This is a more effective statement when not rendered in PG13 format.

Fri Oct 2 15:24:13 2009: 7044   TonyLawrence

Most people who say "You always think you're right" are insecure. They aren't confident, are afraid that they'll look like a fool if they are wrong and so on. They are often just mirroring their own insecurities,

Confident people don't mind being wrong or admitting ignorance. I have had several occasions where I have professed rank ignorance on some computing related issue and someone present has expressed amazement that I'd admit my weakness. They don't understand that I know ENOUGH that it doesn't bother me a bit to not know something.

Fri Oct 2 17:55:18 2009: 7051   TonyLawrence

Though I should hasten to add that I don't think the person whose comment triggered this post is insecure. He was just ticked off.

That's the other time people say You always think you are right :-)


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