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You Don't Have to Drink the Kool Aid: You Can Sip It

This is a post about acknowledging a good idea for what it is, regardless of its source.

When we listen to acquaintances or "experts", read books, listen to podcasts, etc, we generally are seeking knowledge. If we have any prior beliefs or knowledge on the subject, whether they're correct or not, confirmation bias pushes us to reject any ideas contrary to our existing beliefs. If this is a new person or book we're encountering for the first time, we unconsciously try to figure out, "Do I agree with this person?" Or perhaps more accurately, "Do they know what they're talking about?"

Our opinions of someone are biased towards first impressions. If the person we're listening to says something contrary to our prior beliefs, it's easy to write him or her off as an ignorant quack. We go into defense mode, poking holes in his or her arguments and ideas, or perhaps we stop listening altogether.

If we fight this initial urge to judgment, we might actually learn something. We don't have to drink the Kool Aid; we can sip it.

We can disagree with people on certain ideas, but we don't have to discard all their ideas. They have different perspectives than us because they have different parents, different mentors, different experiences, grew up in different environments at different times, and have different synaptic connections in their brains. Just because we reject some ideas from a person, rightly or wrongly, doesn't mean we must reject all of them.

After all, half the US population thinks the other half is wrong about nearly everything. And the other half thinks the opposite. What naiveté!

We should ask ourselves if we disagree with a person or an idea as a matter of pragmatism or on grounds of moral idealism. A few ways to reflect/react/ask yourself when confronting an idea contrary to your prior beliefs:

  • Why do I disagree with this?

  • That's an interesting perspective.

  • What if my prior beliefs are wrong?

  • What are the implications of this idea if it turns out to be true?

I encourage you to be humble and open to take a good idea for what it's worth, regardless of source. Stay curious.

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