“Say What???”

As my skill at solving the New York Times crossword puzzle every week might demonstrate, I know a little about a lot of things. However, after reading Adam Grant’s recent challenging book Think Again (Viking Press 2021), I confess that there are many more things about which I know at lot less than I think I do. It turns out knowing a little about many things does not equal knowing any of them in depth. Subtitled “the power of knowing what you don’t know,” Grant effectively convinced me that while I hold countless opinions (as do most Americans) I have very limited bases for many of them. My views seem to have been hobbled together from brief newspaper articles, conversations with friends, an occasional documentary film and my personal experience. Grant would maintain it would be not just humbling but in fact empowering to admit my ignorance.

A few months ago an experience with my granddaughter illustrates his point. Her extended paternal family is largely Republican and she wanted to know why I was a Democrat. A perfectly sound question from a 13 year old to her elder. My first response was the honest admission, “I guess I have always been a Democrat. My parents were Democrats. My grandparents voted for F.D.R.” Listening to myself, I realized that my response was embarrassingly close to the truth. She, of course, has only learned of the very left wing Democrats who are currently espousing socialism as the cure to society’s ills. I am not a proponent of socialism, so she needed more explanation.(My views on socialism, by the way, are no more rounded out than many of my opinions!) I told her that the Republican Party as it presently stands seems to me to promote the wealthy and the Democratic Party looks out for every one else.

But she made me realize that I have not had an in-depth conversation about politics rooted in deep thought in many years. Grant would maintain that the situation is the same for many areas in which we hold strong opinions. He says we lose out by keeping to our own views and never encountering any others. One of his points which I intend to remember in the future is “approach disagreements as dances, not battles.” It’s certainly worth a try.

29 thoughts on ““Say What???”

  1. It sounds as if he has some interesting ideas. Changing our minds about long-held beliefs is never easy. Even when someone writes something that makes us think about ‘why?’. My own politics haven’t changed since I was 16, but I spent over forty-five years having to debate them with almost everyone around me to justify my point of view. It was never a dance, but also not really a battle.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. I think you would really enjoy the book. He is very convincing about “group think” and its perils, most poignantly about NASA ignoring warnings from a lone dissenter before the disastrous Challenger launch.

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  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your self analysis on opinions, as I follow the same trail as you. My thinking seems sound to me, but it really isn’t. Now, if only every member of the press would… sigh! You’re right that a 13 year old needs to know that all Democrats are not left wing Socialists, and every Republican is not a right wing white supremacist. Having those conversations at her age is important. She’s lucky to have such a grandmother. The book sounds excellent.

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  3. Nothing like trying to explain your beliefs to a 13 year old to help you examine why you hold them. Thanks for another book recommendation! You’ve been doing a lot of reading and I’ve been taking notes! 🙂

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  4. Debate is always a sound method of espousing our own views and hearing contra views. Today, however, it seems that so many people are incapable of debate, only of argument, often very nastily and violently.

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  5. There are some who claim the parties have switched Dems support corporate welfare the Repub. the blue collar working man women sorry i mean person. i think both parties have abandoned common sense and fixing blame are the parties main function these days. Bruce >

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  6. Thirteen-year-olds are good at asking questions, many of which are excellent. Sometimes talking to a teen makes us think about our beliefs.

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  7. Children challenge us. They still have that curiosity that will help them forge their own path in life. Our party system has done more to divide us than to bring us together. And evaluating our own stance? Something most of us rarely do. Point taken.

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  8. Beautiful way to term disagreement. I learnt the hard way that you cannot learn until you are a little uncomfortable. I learnt about my own fallacy when I was told to resign because of the failure to learn from new people. That was when I stopped being an asshole and was instantly rewarded.

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