13 Jan 22

Beliefs, identity, and flexibility

This interview with Adam Grant, author of Think Again, has some useful advice about how to deal with your beliefs and stay flexible when discussing with people you disagree with.

The central point is that people hold on to their beliefs as if they're part of their identity, and changing them comes at a high personal cost.

Adam's tips on how to be more flexible with your beliefs:

  • Don’t get attached to your ideas and beliefs. Treat them as hypotheses, as a way to know if you’re wrong. And celebrate the learnings when you discover you were wrong.
  • When somebody disagrees with your idea, be curious instead of defensive. Try to understand what they know that you don’t know. Invite their angle and ask to learn more.
  • Avoid conversations about “two sides”. There are always more than two sides. What is the third angle you’re not seeing?
  • No matter how strongly you hold a viewpoint, you can always do the exercise of imagining how you would feel differently if you had grown up on a different family, country, or era. This is revealing and helps create empathy for people who disagree with you.
  • When disagreeing, lead with a YES, AND. Not with a BUT. It makes the other person more welcoming to your point and invites then into the conversation. One trick is to say “YES, I agree that what you mentioned is the ultimate goal.” You don’t need to agree to the exact point they're making, just start with a YES.

These tips resemble and complement the points made by James Clear about Why facts dont change our minds, where he argues that the best way to change someone's mind is not by presenting facts but to offer them safety and friendship.


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