We are not experts on most things, so why does everyone need to have an opinion on so many issues? It’s very difficult to convince yourself of a new idea if a contradictory idea is already anchored in your thinking. We are too frequently blinded by our own opinions, but we can design decision-making processes to overcome this bias. Such a process can help you avoid painful mistakes and gain an advantage, but this effort takes humility and can be difficult.
As you get older, you realize how much you got wrong in the past. Most of the beliefs and opinions I held most deeply in my twenties and thirties were wrong. In fact, it would be an easier exercise to identify what I was right about than to try to count all the ways I was wrong. I see the error of my past ways more clearly now because I’ve learned more, seen more, and thought more. Exposing yourself to different viewpoints and engaging in a little bit of self-reflection can reveal how easy it is to trick yourself.
It’s highly unlikely you’ve studied most issues or problems enough to have an informed opinion, but jumping to conclusions too quickly can be the path of least resistance. We make instant judgments and quick decisions because uncertainty is both uncomfortable and mentally demanding. Our brains use lots of energy to process conflicting information, which is what we get when we engage in nuanced thinking or look at a problem from multiple points of view.
To efficiently navigate life, we like to make instant judgments. We categorize information as true or false. We label people as friends or enemies. Making quick decisions had evolutionary advantages in helping humans avoid predators and poisonous snakes. However, relying on quick judgments and opinions is not the most effective way to make important decisions. Delay forming an opinion until you have reviewed all the important facts and heard from all key stakeholders. This process forces you to be patient. Important questions rarely have black-and-white answers, and important decisions require self-reflection and input from others.
Here are a few ways to stop yourself from being too rigid in your thinking.
- Hold your opinions loosely.
- Be open to new information and seek out diverse points of view.
- Change your vocabulary and learn to say, “I don’t know.”
- When you are in conflict with others, invest the time to understand other sides of an argument better than you understand your own.
Good ideas survive deep skepticism and intense competition. Stress-testing ideas exposes their weaknesses and highlights their strengths. You gain confidence in the truth of an idea by trying to disprove it.
Be humble, expose yourself to diverse viewpoints, and have fewer opinions.