Replacing knee-jerk reactions with new learnings

Posted on — | 2 min read

Often times we come across a blog post, a portion of a book, a podcast, an interview, etc where an expert in a field is explaining something that is very counter-intuitive to us. This happens mostly because we have some strongly held beliefs about how the world works and those beliefs are challenged. This used to happen to me while I was growing up and my first reaction to this was usually, “That doesn’t make sense. He’s clearly wrong, because of <insert vaguely recollected poorly understood never researched supposed fact/anecdote here>”. It didn’t help me in any way. Some times it made me feel better about myself, but the net outcome of consuming that resource was zero at best, if not negative.

As I grew up, I started realizing and asking myself - “am I really challenging someone who has a PhD in this subject they’re discussing and has spent countless hours thinking about the topic where I’m going in to this with nothing more than a hunch on a subject I know nothing about?” It’s definitely possible that I’m right and they’re wrong, but it’s also highly unlikely.

Once I realized this I stopped having such knee-jerk reactions when I saw something I didn’t agree with initially. My first reaction now is always, “That’s interesting and doesn’t conform with my beliefs. What am I missing?” I prefer to err on the side of me being wrong and learning something from it and updating my beliefs rather than doubling down on something I was already believing in without confirming the validity of it.

It’s easy to dismiss something just because it doesn’t align with what we believe in, but it’s much more fruitful to learn about a different perspective and update our beliefs.