I’ve heard it said that every moment is a teachable moment.
Yeah, right. Although one time I convinced a pair of proselytizers to read the Tao Te Ching.
Something that I find harder to deal with than another person’s ignorance is a persons unwillingness to examine their own evidence. I realize that everyone has their own journey, and we have to make our own tools as we go along. Teachers, parents, and others try to help smooth the path and offer up some alternate tools, ideas, and strategies for dealing with the world. What isn’t always clear is whether those tools work for every situation. Sometimes they are helpful, sometimes they are harmful.
Everyone can use some more tools. I like the communities that question ideas, because it means that sooner or later bad ideas can be thrown out and replaced with better ones. Surrounding yourself with like minded people may be comforting, but it doesn’t help with this process.
People are good at recognizing patterns, but they suck at statistics.
When someone hands you an idea (right or wrong) it is really easy for confirmation bias to creep in. It feels good to have an answer. This is why people think that horoscopes are true, or think that vaccines cause autism. Having a bad day? Mercury may be in retrograde. Or you may be cursed. Or fluoride in the water is making you feel sick.
When people spot a pattern, they look at things that confirm their hypotheses and often ignore things that go against their new found pattern. Critical thinking isn’t easy. Which is why people feel threatened when you tell them otherwise.
How often to people change their minds?
So… back to teachable moments. No matter what, you cannot change another person’s mind. You can only lay the groundwork for them to change their own mind. Also remember: fear talks louder than reason for most folks. Acknowledging the fear is good, and it can open the door to reason.
One of the things that is necessary is to get them thinking. As much as we may want to say “You’re wrong, here is why,” that isn’t productive. “I’d be happy to talk about that,” is a statement that actually opens people up. Talking with people can have unintended consequences. I’ve had to reevaluate some of my own beliefs… and I wouldn’t have if I had talked at people than with people.
Learning from mistakes
I have an odd juxtaposition. In private, or in writing I find myself aggressively going after another persons ideas and beliefs. I’m relentless and sarcastic. When I’m arguing with the phantom idea, I am loaded with weapons-grade-snark. In person, manners and civility reign.
It is okay to change what you believe. No one is immune to bad ideas. I look on it as weeding my own garden of thoughts… bad ones will choke good ones if you let them.
Every moment is a teachable moment, but sometimes we are the ones who need to learn a lesson.