Certainty is Certainly Ridiculous
I had some interesting conversations this week. For the most part they were productive and I learned something from them. However, there were some conversations that showcased the ugly side of disingenuous thought. They also highlighted the problem that comes with being too certain of ourselves.
These things happen, and they happen more often when we have a problem with the person rather than the words they’re saying. When we disagree with a person, then we’re more likely to ignore what they say, or purposefully distort their intention regardless of what it is they’re saying. This mindset is rampant, and it does more harm than good.
You know by now that I think word choice is important. The words we select are essential, and they all hold weight. The words we use can change the meaning, tone and reaction to what we say.
However, assuming someone’s intent is hugely problematic, and it can be used disingenuously to make claims about a person that are simply untrue. When we are certain that how we think is infallible, we begin to believe that everyone else has ill intent. Certainty leads to this mindset.
If a person says X and you understand it to be Y, this does not make your perception true. The way we feel about words are not facts. What’s most important, and most true in the art of conversation is the speaker’s intent, rather than the way we perceive and distort their intention.
Again, sometimes this is done purposefully in order to stain a person’s ideas, dismiss them from the conversation, and to make ourselves believe that the way we think is objectively true. However, all of us hold opinions that are wrong and misinformed.
There’s a quote by Voltaire that I always come back to. It goes along the lines of ‘doubt is uncomfortable but certainty is ridiculous.’ Being so sure that we are right and the other person is wrong does us no favours. It leaves no space for us to explore our beliefs, to question why we think the way we do.
Being certain makes us rigid, and it makes us believe anyone with an opinion different to ours is the enemy. Being certain breathes a lack of compassion and empathy. We should avoid certainty.
The point today is that when we’re talking to another person we need to be mindful of assuming their intention. Society has moved towards a tendency to assume the worst. We assume the worst possible outcomes, the worst possible intentions and the worst possible version of people.
We’ve reduced people to how bad they can become, rather than how good they might be. There’s no hope or optimism in that. We hear someone talk, we assume the worst possible meaning from what they’ve said, and we reaffirm that the way we think is untouchable.
It results in a world where any conversation can be, and is, made a warzone. And the goal of war is to win.
I never want to be in a conversation where the intention is to win. Conversations are for learning and expanding how we think. We need to stop getting ready for war every time we meet someone whose opinion doesn’t match our own. Instead, we should get ready to learn. We should get ready to question our own opinions and understand that they might be wrong.