Many people are scared of being persuaded. We equate it with a shift away from the truth, or with being convinced to buy something we don’t need or want. When we change our minds, we worry that others will think we’re flaky or confused. I don’t feel that way. If someone has a more valid perspective on the world than I do, the most rational thing I can do is allow myself to be persuaded, and to change my mind.
Holding on to old beliefs seems simpler. It prevents us from having to spend valuable mental resources in thinking about something in a new way, and seems to protect us from the ego blow of admitting that we were wrong.
But everyone is wrong sometimes. Being wrong shouldn’t be the problem.
The real problem is clinging to ideas, beliefs, or behaviours that are no longer useful. Eventually, the behaviours we enact to support old beliefs become like broken compasses, destined to send us to Albuquerque when we want to get to Fiji.
Letting go of old beliefs is difficult though, so it’s a good thing we already have a model for it.
Think like a scientist
I think that when people see the world ‘science,’ they think of people in lab coats, clinking test tubes, rusted Bunsen burners, and smelly chemicals. But science is also an ideal.
Science is adaptive, it’s dispassionate, and it doesn’t care about our opinions. This may make it seem cold, but that’s a faulty theory. Science is an equalizer because it doesn’t care about our race, credentials or who our parents are. It cares about the truth.
But sometimes science doesn’t have the answer. As scientists, we have to accept uncertainty or incomplete theories, and embrace the possibility that we may be wrong. It’s uncomfortable, but freeing, because it places value in the process of truth-searching instead of on a single conclusion. If our purpose is to understand the truth of a thing, then we free ourselves from outdated beliefs. We get to change.
As people, we can strive to think like scientists - to evaluate ideas on merit, not on who has them, and to revise our decisions when the evidence tells us we should. If we think like scientists, we’ll be persuaded when we should be, and remain steadfast when we should be. We will listen to other people, and we will allow ourselves to be moved.