These are crazy times. It might be the most divisive period in United States history. Depending on how far right or left you lean we have, censorship, riots, conspiracy, and even war.
To put it another way, shit is TENSE.
And so I’d like to offer a two-word solution to see the world in a more positive light, de-escalate conflicts before they begin, and improve your relationships both personally and professionally.
Hyperbole? Definitely. Life-changing? It was for me.
It’s a mental model that can be summarized as:
‘Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by neglect.’
In other words, ‘The world is not out to fucking get you, shit just happens.’
Right now, I think the biggest problem both on the right and left is that people feel like the other side is trying to “gotcha!” them. I notice it a lot on both sides. It’s less of a conversation and more of a trap being laid so that the person can say “AHA SEE?!”
This leads to most of us being on the defensive in conversations, assuming the other person has some malicious intent.
We’ve all heard the cliche that “to assume makes an ass out of u and me” and it’s really true but Hanlon’s Razor is a tool to actually help you STOP assuming.
Society is in a really precarious moment. We are actively de-platforming people we disagree with. Where are these people going to go? Is the backlash when they find each other and retaliate going to be ten times worse?
On the other hand, some of these powerful people were inciting violence and chaos that you could argue should be quelled. You can’t have a civil discourse if the other party jumps straight to violence right?
So what’s the solution?
The first step is to acknowledge that there is no such thing as an infallible human being.
The smartest people make a lot of mistakes. Hanlon’s Razor says inability or neglect is far more likely to be the cause than malice. These people aren’t trying to take anyone’s freedom or incite violence, they’re just having a massive breakdown of trust and communication.
When a situation causes us to become angry or frustrated, it can be valuable to consider if those emotions are justified.
Often, the best way to react to other people causing us problems is to educate them, not disdain them. This isn’t just saying “hey, you’re wrong” on Twitter. It’s showing them information, asking questions, and letting them see for themselves that there’s no black and white solution to pretty much anything.
In this way, we can avoid repeats of the same situation as well as ending the conversation and having them go find others who engage and support their ideas blindly.
I sincerely believe like Bill & Ted’s song that saved the world, this simple trick can have incredible downstream effects on the world right now.
Imagine if we all just assumed that we had the best intentions and put ourselves in the other person’s shoes before speaking. Imagine we start there. What do conversations look like then?
The problem with this is it’s hard and others aren’t going to do it. So you have to eat shit and get comfortable losing arguments for a while.
But the good news is by doing it YOU become less stressed out and avoid wasting valuable brain space with negative energy. We only have a finite amount of space in our cerebral health bar every day. This will allow you to preserve yours and be happier.
The other person will run around depleting theirs by letting arguments and fear take headspace.
You will be free.
And, if we all try a little harder to give others the benefit of the doubt before assuming bad intentions, maybe we can save the world.