What is This Drive to Convince? … to be right???

Posted on August 21, 2018




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The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.” (Leo Tolstoy)

All of my life I’ve been wondering where this drive to convince others that I’m right comes from? It was rather startling when it hit me that when I have this need to be right, then I also must make others wrong. Why would I do that? Inherent in my thinking is that I, the right one, is superior; and you, the wrong one, is inferior. All you have to do is see things my way and change your thinking to think like me. Then my rightness will be already knowingyour savior. But if you refuse to change your mind to think like me, then you should be banished or destroyed.

Have you ever noticed certain times with certain people regarding certain issues, that it drives you crazy that you can’t get through to them. You lay awake at night thinking of all the things I should have or could have said that would have convinced them during that argument. WHAT IS THIS DRIVE TO CONVINCE? It is INHUMAN and INHUMANE. Why is it so blinding? Sometimes it seems all-encompassing. I’m realizing, from hindsight, that it is my own insecurities that create my need for others to think like me, believe like me, and act like me. If only I can surround myself with mini-me’s, THEN I could be confident that I am CERTAIN in my thinking and my beliefs. But creating a herd or joining a herd will never create certainty because nothing is certain. Even if the whole world thought like me, that would simply be false certainty. Because I am only human. And I do not know…

It took me 50 years to start questioning my own beliefs. Why would we think that we could change someone’s mind in a few conversations? We are deeply conditioned to believe, think, and act the way we do. And change is not the job of others. If I’m going to change, I’m the only one that can do that. It is only when I am ready to change, that change is possible. I have to begin to open my mind, my heart, and my will to allow for change. These openings have to be there, or at least a crack must be started. That’s how the light gets in.


I wonder what would happen if we began to use social media for peace and for understanding?

That is what I’m trying to do. Here is my latest post on facebook:

I have NO interest in convincing others to think in any certain way. Anything I post is simply something to think about.

I AM interested in these three things:

1) That we all think and do what we know down deep is the right thing

2) That we all honor that in others

3) That we all seek to understand more than to be understood.


Backfire Effect:

Did you know that the harder we try to convince someone to change their minds, the more entrenched they become in their beliefs? Research shows that the more facts we present for our case, the more we strengthen their beliefs; even when those

fact directly conflict with their beliefs. So you see, our drive to convince others is a waste of time. It is sort of like chasing your tail, or chasing the wind. It is just dust in the wind. It reminds me of worrying. Our thoughts take over and we lose all sense of meaning in that moment. In essence, we have lost that moment… forever.





Confirmation bias:

We can see only what we seek for,

But we seek for only what we want to see.

We can see only what we are looking for.


But we cannot see what we do not want to see.

We can see only what we want to see.

Our ability to see (to understand) is limited by our comfort zone

… by our self-defined bubble.


We can hear only what we are listening for.

But we cannot hear what we do not want to hear.

We can hear only what we want to hear.

Our ability to hear (to understand) is limited by our comfort zone

… by our self-defined bubble.


Why do I consistently choose to listen to certain news stations?

Why do I read the books that I read?

Why do I gather with a specific group of friends?

I create my own confirmation bubble that becomes an echo chamber for what I already know. But if I already know, I can no longer learn!

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” (Robertson Davies)

“We find comfort among those who agree with us… growth among those who don’t.” (Frank Clark)

“What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” (Warren Buffett)

“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects.” (Francis Bacon)






For more on this topic in Living with Open Hands, see:

How do we know that we know what we know???


Knowing and Unknowing; Truth and Untruth


A World of Words


The Bubble of Indifference




Conventional Wisdom, Cultural Christianity, Imperceptible Assuptions, & Predictable Outcomes


Being Right, Making Wrong