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The Art Of Being Wrong

Lately I have been studying the way people respond to criticism, correction, and challenged expressions. I can’t help but notice the embedded instinct we all carry to defend our beliefs on concepts that maybe we weren’t even that passionate about to begin with. But when we are challenged, this topic becomes more than just the stance we take, it becomes a piece of our hard earned reputation. If proven wrong on this item, everything else we have said is now vulnerable for skeptics to peel back. 
I host the Lifestar Podcast and have taken great pride and honor in my ability to put out reliable and accurate information to my listeners. People trust me, sometimes more than they should. Regardless, I have a perceived expertise on certain topics. I am constantly emailed, texted, and tagged on social media threads for my opinion on certain items. I will not lie and tell you this doesn’t occasionally stress me out. The fear of being wrong or straying a provider in the wrong direction is heavy. But being wrong is important to our academic improvement, and being challenged is fueled by desired engagement.
Nothing great ever came to fruition because a group of people all agreed. Concepts, strategies, and understandings are constantly being refined. Putting yourself out there and stating your beliefs on a topic is one of the best ways to find the holes in your knowledge, the blunders in your practice, and the people in which you should surround yourself with.
I recently had an RN from the OB department come in and talk to our staff on pregnancy complications. She was asked about checking deep tendon reflexes (DTR’s). When she went to demonstrate it on one of the providers in the audience, it didn’t work! As the limb laid there motionless an awkward silence rolled through the room. One of the providers showed her “his” way of doing it. As everyone watched him succeed in triggering the tendon reflex, they looked to see what her reaction would be. She said “oh, I guess I learned a new way of doing it today.” She was confident enough in her knowledge and education, and never felt challenged. I was amazed! This response didn’t make us skeptical of the rest of her presentation, it made us realize that she was more passionate about the topic than herself. She has truly separated her personal ego from the topic she was teaching. Separating our reputation from the topic is truly the only way to take an open minded evaluation of our understanding.

If we get too emotionally involved in our topic and perceive it as our reputation, we run the risk of falling into “The Sunken Cost Fallacy.” This can be likened to the person who has waited for an elevator for an extended amount of time, and when plagued with the thought of taking the steps, thinks,“ I’ve already waited this long, I might as well wait a little longer.” I have seen people defend a false understanding for far beyond the time I wish to invest in disproving it, just because they fell into this fallacy. 
If you truly believe you are right, it is beneficial to apply “Rapoport’s Rules” and attempt to accurately repeat your opponents position, state areas in which you both agree, verbalize things in which you learned from them, and then rebut. This is like a “Stop Point” in patient care. We separate ourselves from a certain task and look at the big picture. Debates are one of the best forms of learning, if we know when to admit we are wrong.
In a world of keyboard warriors and little face to face communication, we commonly see horrible debate etiquette. Threads will reach hundreds of comments that include useless anecdotes, low blows, and straw man arguments. This of how much more we could benefit ourselves and others if we all just learned the art of being wrong. 

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