Sometimes I’m wrong.
Not all of the time. But some of the time.
And when I am wrong, boy am I wrong.
But in the moment when I’m actively being wrong I never know it.
Zach and I are both what I can only describe as people aggressively seeking more. More information, more communication, more reasoning. We aren’t exactly fighters, neither of us has ever gotten into a physical altercation (although we’re both certain that, in the rare chance that we do get into a physical altercation, our opponent will wish they hadn’t). (It’s important to note that in Zach’s case this is due to his clearly superior physique and strength, whereas in my case this is due to my clearly grandiose perception of self.) We aren’t fighters per se, but interrogators and, more precisely, instigators. So when disagreements arise, we talk in circles for hours, each pushing the other for more. More information, more communication, more reasoning.
He’s usually asking me to focus more on facts.
I’m usually asking him to focus more on feelings.
Most times we reconvene hours later, each admitting partial fault and incomplete thinking, and holding a new self-understanding. And then we do it again in a few weeks.
It’s here, as promised. In this month’s Grow & Let Go we’ll discuss how to outgrow our outdated perspectives. What a wonderful idea to have put into the universe, Jacklyn. Great prediction, Jacklyn. When you tell yourself you want to grow, sometimes the universe (or God, whomever you like) comes along and tries to help speed up the process. The unfortunate truth is sometimes growing is fun but most of the time growing sucks and you cry a lot. So I –– ironically not for my blog but for my own benefit, who’d’ve thunk –– have spent the last month pondering how in the world I can actively change some of my deepest rooted perceptions, or at least how to reconsider them when presented with new information.
The thing about outdated perspectives is you rarely recognize that your own perspectives have gone out of style. It’s like that pair of lowrise jeans you didn’t want to let go of when highrise jeans came back in style, so you keep wearing them because they’re what you’re used to, they’re what makes you comfortable. But in reality you’d feel way better if you’d just stop being so stuck in your ways and try on the damn highrise jeans.
Lately this issue has mostly shown its ugly little face in conversations with Zach since (as I’ve said a million times and will say again for the millionth-and-one-th time) he’s basically the only person I’ve spoken to face-to-face since August. And thank Jesus these conversations happen with him because he’s so darn logical and so darn patient that I almost get away with my stubborn argumentative rampages every time.
But in the spirit of self-betterment (and respect for everyone who ever has and everyone who ever will find themselves in a disagreement with me) it’s time that I try to change my
In order to do this, I had to ask myself the following questions:
- How can I make myself realize I’m wrong in the moment instead of hours later?
- Can I learn to openly admit when I’m wrong?
- How can I communicate my ideas in ways that aren’t argumentative?
- Can I learn to say “I don’t know” when I don’t have all the information I need?
- How can I accept that people can disagree and each be correct?
- Can I learn to allow discussions to end in disagreement?
It’s a lot of questions, I know. And honestly, I’ve been asking myself these questions daily to try to figure out the answers and I’ve still got close to nothing.
But for the sake of myself and this god forsaken blog, here’s what I’ve got:
When I disagree with someone, roughly 793 defense mechanisms appear in my mind seemingly out of thin air.
And when someone throws a disputable fact my way, the first line of defense is my superficial ego. This is the first step in my disagreements, where the virtue signaling comes in –– ‘Oh you’re pro-life? Well what happens after the baby is born? I bet you hate welfare and taxes, too.’ Basically, I’m better than you and I’m more educated too, nananabooboo.
I like to call my next layer of defense my statistical straight jacket –– I’ve bound myself to these facts and I’ll restrain you with them, too. I cherry pick stats that fit my perspective, gather up any supporting-info crumbs that can make my argument seem more well-rounded, and Voila! A bunch of bullshit served up on a silver platter. Mangia!
Then, if things aren’t going my way, comes avoidance. This is the ‘You’re being argumentative and I need to leave to clear my head.’ Sometimes this is true. Most times I’m just on the verge of defense-mechs-round-four:
Crying. I’m not sad, I’m frustrated. (In reality I’m mostly sad.) ‘Oh I see,’ my competitor will say. ‘She can dish it out but she can’t take it.’ My competitor would be correct.
This is the point when I realize I’m wrong but my brain is too cloudy to understand it at the moment. Am I gaslighting myself? Nope, just my pride making sure I stick to my guns (even though I have clearly not been adequately trained to even have guns in the first place). (Maybe if my pride could tone it down a few notches I’d realize that, too.)
These defenses (and my general defensive demeanor) have always been there. But I always thought they were there to protect me, my values, the information that I know is correct. Once I started trying to understand them, I realized the only thing my defense mechanisms protect is my fear.
Fear of the unknown, the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable. Fear of disagreement.
I don’t just fear disagreements (and opposing ideas and snakes and birds and clowns) I hate them.
And I mean it.
In order to make myself realize I’m wrong in the moment instead of hours later, I need to stop making myself the victim (or the victim’s advocate) when it isn’t necessary. It’s some serious White Man’s Burden shit and it’s inhibiting my ability to see things as they are instead of as I want them to be.
Seeing things through other people’s perspectives helps with this, as I can stop seeing myself as the victim and start seeing myself how the person I’m talking with sees me: rarely a victim, often an aggressor. Maybe I can see that I don’t look quite so correct from the other side of the room. Then, after I realize I’m wrong, I need to admit that I’m wrong. Right then. Right there. To the person I’m speaking with.
And honestly I’m starting to see things differently as a whole, understanding that most situations and especially most people are far more nuanced than my polarized opinions account for.
Knowing this, I know I need to communicate my perspectives without being argumentative. If I can go into a conversation with an open mind (even when I anticipate disagreement), maybe I can leave knowing more than I did before, about the topic at hand, the person I disagreed with, and myself.
This isn’t to say I don’t still have strong values and hold to them, but damn, being mad at everyone for everything all the time is exhausting. Plus sometimes I’m just not completely educated okay?? (She said, defensively, to herself.) But it’s okay not to be an expert on everything, very few people are. When I don’t know something I need to be open to learning more, but more importantly I need to admit it.
It’s better to say “I don’t know” than to say a lie and call it the truth.
And if my opponent and I reach an intellectual stalemate, I –– after having stopped victimizing myself, broadened my point of view, communicated non-aggressively, and admitted that which I do not know –– can accept that although we may still disagree, we both made compelling, fact-based arguments. We can both be correct even though we disagree.
Finally, I need to just move forward and let disagreements go. Healthy discussions can end in disagreement without ending relationships. Just because I don’t 100% agree with someone doesn’t mean they’re a bad person or that we don’t share the same values.
And to be quite frank I’ve been and continue to be a pretty shitty person sometimes, and I’m almost certain that the only way for me to get better is to be honest about myself and significantly more understanding of others.
Sometimes people misspeak or sometimes they just haven’t learned yet or sometimes they’re just seeing a different part of the picture you’re collectively painting. But people are people and people can change and the only way we can allow ourselves to change (or try to educate others) is by deactivating our defense mechanisms.
No one feels safe asking questions or learning in a hostile environment.
The only way I can let go of my outdated perspectives is by yelling less and listening more. I need to change my internal dialogue about the things I hate and I need to stop hating things in general. I need to remember that the point isn’t to always be right, it’s to always be learning more.
Zach and I always learn from our fights because we reflect on them. But I need to move past reflection and toward action. Now that I recognize the steps I need to take, I actually need to take them.
With love and a heck of a lot of work to do,
In next month’s Grow & Let Go, we’ll discuss how we can start unlearning hate.