Have you read James Clear’s article called “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds”? It’s pertinent.

It starts out quoting economist JK Galbraith. “Faced with a choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy with the proof.”

Here are the key points (with a few of my musings mixed in). Take a minute…

Tribe is stronger than truth. We don’t always believe things because they’re true. Sometimes we believe things because they fit within our tribe. The need for the approval of one’s community is strong. In other words, tribe can define “truth” rather than truth defining the choice of one’s tribe.

Facts don’t change our minds. Friendship does. Perhaps it’s not difference, but distance, that breeds hostility. It’s hard to hate someone of a different race if he/she is your friend.

The spectrum of beliefs is worth noting. Let’s say the “belief spectrum” is a 10-point scale. Most people go after their polar opposite, when in actuality, if one is say, a 7 on the scale, there is better conversation and listening with the 6’s and 8’s. Any idea that is sufficiently different from one’s current worldview will feel threatening. When confronted with uncomfortable facts, people will double down and retreat to their tribes. Admitting being wrong is painful. Arguments are seen as an attack on one’s identity. Reading books or articles is often more helpful. People may be wrestling with their own worldviews and the last thing they need is to wrestle with you.

False ideas persist because they are repeated. Silence is death to an idea. The more you repeat a bad idea, the more likely people are to believe it. Each time you attack a bad idea, you’re feeding the monster. It disseminates the BS. Your time is better spent championing good ideas. Clear isn’t saying to never address erroneous ideas, but to consider one’s goal first. Most people argue to win, not to learn.

Be kind first; be right later. The root of the word “kind” is “kin.” Interesting. Seems almost…tribal.

You know what I’ve noticed about all of this? When I’ve shared these concepts with others, they tend to enthusiastically agree that tribe can trump truth, but see people of the OTHER tribe as the misinformed.

This is a problem. For example, Black Lives Matter can’t simultaneously be a Marxist movement and NOT a Marxist movement. A mixture? Maybe, but I’ve noticed that people aren’t comfortable with mixtures. They want to declare their opinion as the way it is.

So what are we to do about facts? We can choose to not believe anything because facts are so fuzzy these days. We can bite the bullet and acknowledge proven facts as facts, even if they go against tribe speak. (That one is HARD.) We can discipline ourselves to listen to both sides of an issue, THEN decide. That one’s a lot of work. It’s easier to just agree with one’s tribal spokesperson. “So and so speaks for me. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”

Or we can just get better at separating fact from fiction, as tempting as it is to take the low road if it makes us feel better. (Smugness does have a certain appeal.) That one takes a lot of maturity.  

On any given topic, we tend to get defensive or jump to conclusions or spout the party line before taking a breath. It’s hard to decipher the facts. Are we willing to put in the time? Are we willing to take a minute to listen first, gather the facts, and opine later?

As high and mighty as this sounds, I want my minutes to count for truth, not spin. Don’t you?  

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