It's New Year's resolution time, and if you're already stressed about how you're going to make it through your list, here are three tips to help you think clearly, communicate effectively, and live happily in 2023.
Falsify your beliefs
One of the best ways to improve your reasoning skills is not merely trying to confirm your beliefs, but also to trying to disconfirm them.
Our tendency towards confirmation bias is ancient. Thucydides observed,
“For it is a habit of humanity to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy”.
To correct for this tendency, try to falsify your beliefs. Or better yet, imagine yourself holding the opposite belief and giving your best justification of it.
You may abandon a false belief or strengthen an existing one–but either way, you’ll gain a broader understanding of the topic.
To have more productive debates on emotional or polarising topics, try using the Rogerian method.
This method is based on the teachings of the psychotherapist Carl Rogers, and is aimed at conflict resolution.
It involves summarising your interlocutor’s argument, acknowledging the merits of their argument, and only then offering your argument.
The philosopher Daniel Dennet, has offered his own version of this method:
- You should attempt to re-express your target's position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, 'Thanks, I wish I'd thought of putting it that way.'
- You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
- You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
- Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
Let go of things outside your control
The central piece of Stoic wisdom, which is also found in many of the great religions and philosophies, is the dichotomy of control.
This involves attaching yourself to that which is ultimately inside of your control–your thoughts and actions–and detaching yourself from that which is outside of your control–everything else.
Care more about whether you decide to give your friend the benefit of the doubt, whether you choose to go to the gym, and how you choose to think and behave.
Care less about the fact someone cut you off in traffic, or that it’s the third consecutive year of La Niña, or the countless other occurrences outside of your control.
Things outside of your control will happen regardless of how you feel about them. It makes sense to let them go.
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