I had, in my opinion, a difficult upbringing. What got me through it was the conviction that my parents (their beliefs, their culture, their practices) were narrow minded and plain wrong. And that I was right: more open minded, more tolerant, more widely read etc.
Since that time I have made a life out of being right. I have read on philosophy, psychology, sociology, neuroscience, history, politics, religion etc. I have spent three months or so reading a whole collection of works to get to grips with Islam (the religion) so that I could prove my parents to be ignorant and wrong. And of course I did and it felt great. Yet, it did not help me to build a bond of mutual respect and affection.
It is interesting, for me, to realise that I ended up in consulting. What are consultants great at? Being right: we know what you should do, how you should do it, when you should do it, the right process and tools to use. Put differently, I have made a living out of being right. And so it is no surprise that the action that I find the hardest is to “give up my point of view” and accept that my point of view is one amongst many, many points of view: specifically that I am too simple to comprehend the complexity and dynamic nature of life.
Then I came across the following TED talk, which I encourage you to watch and listen to: On being wrong. Here are some key quotes:
- Kathryn Schulz: “This attachment to our own rightness keeps us from preventing mistakes when we absolutely need to, and causes us to treat each other terribly.”
- St. Augustine: “I err therefore I am.”
- Buddha = Schulz + Augustine: “Ignorance is the root cause of the cycle of existence and suffering.”
If you have not already done so then I urge you to watch the following TED video on empathy: A radical experiment in empathy”. I recommend that you first watch “On being wrong” and then watch “A radical experiment on empathy”. Put differently, if I can accept that I may be wrong then it helps me to get the other – to empathise.
I thank my friend Arie for extracting the following from the TED empathy video:
“Step outside of your tiny little world.
Step inside of the tiny little world of somebody else.
And then do it again, and do it again, and do it again.
And suddently all of these tiny little worlds they come together in this complex web.
And they build a big complex world.
And suddenly without realizing it
you’re seeing the world differently.
Everything has changed.”
To sum it all up
Accepting and standing in the circle that “I could be wrong here, how I perceive and think about stuff is only one way of doing so” is the access to not only wisdom but also to empathy and through that to better relationships, more love and joy in our lives and finally a better world. Then again, I may have got it totally wrong!