Tendonitis in my knee has resulted in a fairly long stint in physical therapy. During the course of treatment, my regular therapist took a vacation, so received treatment from a different therapist. I expected to receive the same type of treatment, but what I got was a very different approach.
Therapist #2 did deep tissue massage (aka torture) and more strengthening exercises. When my regular therapist returned, she was surprised (maybe it was the bruises?) and, thankfully, went back to her original treatment plan.
We’ve seen a similar scenario countless times. Each person thinks he is right. Each has the experience, training and data to back up their perspective. Because each person holds these perspectives as “the truth,” there seems to be no way for them to recognize the other’s equally-compelling “truth” and find common ground.
Finding your truth and sticking to it has merit, but there are downsides. When we are sure we are right, we are no longer curious. We can begin to perceive that this belief is a part of ourselves. Once we identify with that position on an issue, we don’t examine it with the same rigor we apply to other positions. Australian comedian Tim Minchin advised recent college graduates to “think critically, and not just about the ideas of others” and “be hard on your beliefs.”
Thinking critically requires detachment. As August Turak wrote in A Leadership Lesson from Trappist Monks that Made Me Rich, detachment means you stay consistent with deep values, but don’t define yourself by a particular idea.
Rather than assuming you are right, examine your unyielding positions to ensure that you have a clear understanding. Only then can you take a stand. As wise Abraham Lincoln said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”
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Photo from iStockphoto.
I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes –
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
Ralph Waldo Emerson