Posted: 2010-11-03 10:55:05
Shortcut URL: http://t.conquent.com/wB00
For years I've said that "an argument reinforces your own opinion." That is to say, most people come away from an argument not with new ideas, but with better defenses. I'm not sure what you call the opposite of an argument, but the result is the same when you have an earnest conversation with someone whom you agree with -- you're just getting ideas to support your position and nothing really new.
I'll, ahem, argue, that there's a primal need in the back of our brains to search for ideas that are comforting. We want to hear things that reassure us that the world is as we believe and it's great fun to see the people who disagree with us proved wrong, or at least look stupid. That suddenly overused phrase about "finding your tribe" is actually pretty deep -- we're wired to be members of a tribe, pretty much an extended family unit, and for good or ill our brains will find a way to find our tribe.
With the Internet, mobile computing, on-demand entertainment and 24/7 news our tribal brains can find reassurance with the touch of a few buttons. If I stumble across Glen Beck and don't like what he's saying, I can pull up last night's episode of The Daily Show and get reassurance from a member of my mental tribe.
If you don't agree with me, you don't have to learn how to accommodate my ideas -- you can instantly find someone who will call me and my crazy ideas idiotic. We don't really fact-check so much as we fact-cherry-pick -- find the ideas that best support the ideas we already believe and ignore the stuff that doesn't fit.
I ignore a lot of stuff. I'm not proud of it, I'm just really tired. Looking at an idea that doesn't fit takes energy. Actually letting that idea in and giving it a place to live with all the other ideas I have in my head is even more exhausting -- it's much easier for me to find some rationalization to simply make this new idea go away.
In one sense, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I try to keep my clients on track -- we made a plan, now let's stick to it until the thing we're building is done and THEN we can look at new ideas. There are always going to be new ideas in the development of a project, but we have a process to record and revisit those ideas later.
But for most things in life, there isn't a process to evaluate new ideas, there isn't time to really give them a home, and there are so many credible seeming sources that allow us to reject the new idea, not set it aside to think about later, but bury it alive, and never go back.
I always seem to get around to the Amish at this point. They have a council of elders who review new ideas and consider the impact on their society before allowing the idea life. Of course, they're technologically up to about the early 1800s at this point, so it's not really a scalable process, but the idea of really thinking about ideas, and having a time and a place to do so, is sorely needed.