How many times have you said something that was utterly incorrect and immediately regretted making the assertion? For me it happens quite a lot. It happens so much that I once read a book bearing the title ‘how to not be wrong’.
In the book, mathematical thinking is the proposed solution suggesting that the path to never being wrong was one paved with the foundations of strict logic. The book gave advice on how to avoid flawed logic through the explanation of a process identifying incorrect personal assumptions. It focused more on how not to be wrong in general rather than how not to be wrong in public, but that is what I want to focus on for the rest of this blog post — how not to be wrong in public.
The thing about ‘not being wrong’ in public is that we all have the ability to accomplish this goal. There’s a famous joke describing how to never write incorrect code: Never write code at all. In the same vain, the secret to never making an incorrect statement is to never speak at all!
This might seem like a ridiculous way to live one’s life, and I concur, but I believe this line of thinking is on to something. Although never speaking may be an extreme, I do believe there is a happy medium between wanting to not be wrong and achieving it through mutism.
For example, speaking only when something seems 100% sure in your mind will prevent you from being wrong. So will keeping your mouth shut when it seems *less* than 100%, but that’s probably the hardest challenge to overcome for most people.
Humans typically prefer to play the odds when they’re not 100% sure about something, to seem more credible in a conversation. It’s here, when the odds are played, that bad things start to happen. People will start to make statements on things they’re 40% sure of just to get credit for offering up the conversational jargon first. Even when people offer up wrong information, those people know that social conventions will probably stop others in the group from fact checking. The thing is, there’s always someone who might do it anyways.
Some people also take chances of being wrong when denying someone else’s credibility. Even if the denial of credibility is valid, the person giving the denial might feel obligated to offer to give the ‘correct’ answer to substantiate their rejection.