I am right, but is it helpful?

Is it helpful?

It is easy to confuse right with helpful.

It is easy to confuse the intention with the result.

We are quick to give an opinion, to come to the rescue of someone who is ill-informed. Like Superman coming to save someone from a blatant error in their thinking. I know I am right and you are wrong, so let me help you by explaining why you are wrong. We seem to often have an unfounded irrational conviction in our certainty of being right, when really, we can both be wrong, maybe even both can be right, according to the criteria we have set.

“When Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, he confessed that if he could be right 75 percent of the time, he would reach the highest measure of his expectation. If that was the highest rating that one of the most distinguished men of the 20th century could hope to obtain, what about you and me?” – Dale Carnegie

Last year, I came to a realisation that the more certainty and conviction someone has about future events, the less credence I give their opinion, as it is unlikely that it is well thought out and evaluated. “This will happen”…vs… “this could happen because of this.” This is the same for current and past events. Even better, they can show, rather than tell, me their understanding.

We think of the ways of our ancestors as barbaric. From our ivory towers, we proclaim how enlightened we are. It is naive and arrogant. My aspiration is that our descendents look at us as barbaric. Then we will have made progress.

I often read a Facebook post and want to comment, I’m outraged, or simply I want to explain my opinion on why they are wrong. The problem is, tone and context, and consequently intention is lost. I typically end up deleting it before hitting enter. It would not be helpful.

I realise taking a ideological stance because I feel it is right, may not be helpful. Talking with someone to understand their view and enhance mine is a better approach, ideally everyone gains. Nobody wins an argument.

Things are complex and to simplify it’s easier to bucket. So we focus on the clear and distinctive 5% rather the blurry 95%. We focus on what we see as the greatest factor, even if it is a small aspect and a multi-variable analysis is needed.

Telling a close friend they have put on too much weight and their health is in danger can be helpful. It helps peel back the mask of self-denial. Telling a close friend that they are fat, is not. It hits the self-esteem and can result in a worse outcome.

This does not absolve me from developing and continually seeking to enhance my viewpoint, it is a checkpoint, a filter. In many circumstances, it is not as important to be accurate, as it is to be helpful.

We should all simply pause and ask, will this be helpful?

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