Women over 50 ageless goddess

The Power of Knowing You Don’t Know Squat

I posted on IG today about back-to-normaling — a word I made up that refers to the responsible return to pre-Covid activities. I make up words frequently. Words such as f*ckedupness, the state of being f*cked up, which you will see used here often. Or trumpectomy, the removal of someone from your life because he supports Donald Trump. (STOP. THIS IS NOT A POST ABOUT POLITICS. IT’S FUN FRIDAY. BEAR WITH ME A MINUTE.)

I thought about my crafting and implementation of this made-up trumpectomy word – and the arguing, disruption, and loss it caused in my life – as I began reading the book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, by Adam Grant. I first saw the book mentioned on The Next Big Idea Club, and was intrigued. Grant writes about the benefits of “having the humility to know what you don’t know and the curiosity to find out more.”

Now, I’m good with admitting what I don’t know when it comes to subject matter. Astronomy, for example. I am a night-sky-gazing junkie, but am ignorant about some aspects of what I’m viewing. I know I don’t know, and am looking forward to taking a college course in astronomy so I can know a little more and be a little less ignorant. But Grant isn’t talking about not knowing subjects. He’s talking about knowing what you don’t know about others’ viewpoints, how that not knowing affects your opinions, and influences the way you express those opinions.

And this is where I get into trouble. Big trouble. All. The. Time.

I am an opinionated debater (i.e., argumentative) from way back. In third grade it didn’t seem right that Greek gods are considered mythological while the God we refer to is accepted as religious fact by so many. In sixth grade my teacher called home before a field trip to see Fiddler on the Roof, concerned the film would provoke argument on my part. Before I married my son’s father, my own father issued him one warning to heed: “Natalie has opinions on everything, big and small, often in inverse proportion.” I don’t think a more thoughtfully worded “my daughter’s an argumentative dumbass” insult has ever been made by anyone before or since.

These charts illustrate how I process views that conflict with mine. Chart A shows my thinking according to Grant’s recommendations. Chart B shows reality. Here’s to authenticity.

Chart AFantasy

Chart BReality

Grant makes a case for what he calls thinking like a scientist. He says “the ability to rethink and unlearn” is a critical skill set, and we should be looking for reasons our views are wrong, not right. “When you’re thinking like a scientist, you don’t let your ideas become your identity,” says Grant. “You anchor your identity in mental flexibility (Chart A) rather than foolish consistency.” (Chart B)

Grant also calls on us to “complexify” rather than simplify our views on an emotional issue. To see opposing viewpoints not as black-and-white, one extreme or the other, but as a complex mix of layers in between that can overlap and, upon examination, offer a bit of common ground. Just imagine if we all could do this with politics. Wouldn’t the world be a better place? If we all could see the complexities of opposing viewpoints, wouldn’t our relationships be healthier and more resilient?

No doubt, I am stubborn as hell. As a midlife woman over 60, I am set in my ways and mental flexibility at this point is a challenge. But I’m getting a little better. A little. My experience traveling solo around the world was helpful practice in complexifying, examining, and understanding views that conflict with my own. I try to ask more questions, and do my best to listen more. I concede more. I avoid tequila.

And one thing I never do is argue on social media. I’m a recent entrant to social media platforms – here on WordPress for only 2 months, and I didn’t start on Instagram until I went on my 70-day solo trip around the world in 2019, just so my friends and family would know I wasn’t dead. I never argue with strangers online because I really don’t GAF if someone I’ve never met disagrees with my viewpoint or not. But someone I know IRL? Bring on the in-person debate.

I’ll continue trying to modify my Chart B so it more closely resembles Chart A and Grant’s recommendations. My level of success will vary, of course, depending on the viewpoint in question. When issues are personal and emotions are high, understanding is low.

What about you? How does your pie chart look?

I hope this weekend finds you getting closer to back-to-normaling in your part of the world. I think we are getting closer. At the very least I think we are getting further from total f*ckedupness. But I don’t know squat.

Happy Friday!

All images are my own.

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16 comments

  1. Great post! LOVE trumpectomy ha! I think I mostly surround myself with people who have the same opinions as me, if I really think about it. My partner is probably the most challenging bc he loves debate and we think very differently about certain topics. And one of the worst things I’ve done in our relationship is push my opinion on him and try to get him to think how I think. It’s such a violation for him I never realized until he explained to me how it’s crossing a boundary. Ugh needs work but I’m learning. I’m def more like chart B! ☺️ I also think it’s good for little girls, teenagers, women of all ages to have strong opinions. It means they’re strong individuals with passion, and the world doesn’t often reward females for that but punishes us. Bc they’re scurrrred. And they should be, bc were badass 💪💪🏻💪🏼💪🏽💪🏾💪🏿

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Libby! I’m working on my boundary-crossing (more like boundary-crushing) tendencies, too. I agree with you about all girls and women being encouraged to own their power by voicing strong opinions.💫💫💫

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good advice… never argue on social media. I too have strong opinions. Very strong, but I try to see both sides. I actually don’t like to argue or debate because I can’t think on my feet. More often, I tend to put my opinions in writing. Writing allows me to clear them out of my head and then review them to make sure I am not being a idiot as well as a bitch before sending out into the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent points. Without understanding the validity of opposing views, one cannot see that contradictions are inherent in every situation and most choices made are essentially compromises between opposing ideals / demands

    Having said that, give your current chart, not going to argue with you about ANYTHING! 😂❤️😘

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree with Ananda. I’m not going to “debate” with you. My pie is missing. I ate it! 🙂 I’m becoming more set in my ways and mostly ok with it. And I try to keep open to learning and different perspectives. There is a LOT I don’t know and we as humans don’t know.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. An excellent post, as always, Natalie. My pie chart used to look a lot like the second one, reality. Just like it, in fact! Today, not as much. It comes, like everything else, as we practice being vulnerable, and really knowing that we know so much less than is knowable. Have a great weekend, my friend.❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Living with my mother who Knows Everything about Everything, I used to feel inadequate until I accepted that I don’t know much about anything. There are times when I know things she doesn’t but they are few and far between.
    I never argue on social media either. I have one friend who puts up long posts that I don’t agree with. I either say nothing or find something I can comment on without being antagonistic. Sometimes I wonder how it is that we are even friends but when we get together we can talk for hours without the whiff of a disagreement.
    I do struggle with people who have opposing views to mine. I really don’t understand why they just can’t see that my opinions are the right ones. When it’s possible I will research the facts to make sure that I am right before I say anything.
    In my days of working in an open plan office there were many times when opinions were expressed that I didn’t agree with. I just kept my opinions to myself knowing I was right and they were being dumb. The worst time was when we, in UK were voting for or against Brexit. I was so utterly angry with those who like sheep listened to the simplistic view that they were saving our country from immigrants. Now that it has happened they are seeing that they didn’t quite get what they were promised.
    I can’t even begin to think what my pie chart would look like so I’m not going to. Have a good weekend x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this, LIRA.❤ Brilliant. I am in complete agreement with your approach, and can very much relate to the issues with mother, coworkers, and friend. I just don’t get why people can’t see that I am right and they are so clearly wrong.
      Good weekend wishes to you, too😊.

      Liked by 1 person

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