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Think Again Book Highlights (Part 2)

This book explores the power and importance of rethinking and revising our beliefs and perspectives. The author argues that being open to changing our minds can lead to better decision-making, more creative thinking, and stronger relationships.

Chapter 4 - The good fight club

  • Although productive disagreement is a critical life skill, it’s one that many of us never fully develop. The problem starts early: parents disagree behind closed doors, fearing that conflict will make children anxious or somehow damage their character. Yet research shows that how often parents argue has no bearing on their children’s academic, social or emotional development. What matters is how respectfully parents argue, not how frequently. Kids whose parents clash constructively feel more emotionally safe in elementary school, and over the next few years, they actually demonstrate more helpfulness and compassion toward their classmates. [80]

  • The ideal members of a challenge network are disagreeable because they’re fearless about questioning the way things have always been done and holding us accountable for thinking again. There’s evidence that disagreeable people speak up more frequently — especially when leaders aren’t receptive — and foster more task conflict. [83]

  • We learn more from people who challenge our thought processes than those who affirm our conclusions. Strong leaders engage their critics and make themselves stronger. Weak leaders silence their critics and make themselves stronger. Weak leaders silence their critics and make themselves weaker. This reaction isn’t limited to people in power. Although we might be on board with the principle, in practice we often miss out on the value of a challenge network. [86]

  • Agreeableness is about seeking social harmony, not cognitive consensus. It’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable. Agreeable people don’t always steer clear of conflict. They’re highly attuned to the people around them and often adapt to the norms in the room. [89]

  • Agreeable people were significantly more accommodating than disagreeable ones — as long as they were in a cooperative team. When they were assigned to a competitive team, they acted just as disagreeably as their disagreeable teammates. [89]

  • Disagreeable people don’t just challenge us to think again. They also make agreeable people comfortable arguing, too. Instead of fleeing from friction, our grumpy colleagues engage it directly. By making it clear that they can handle a tussle, they create a norm for the rest of us to follow. [90]

  • Experiments show that simply franubf a dispute as a debate rather than as a disagreement signals that you’re receptive to considering dissenting opinions and changing your mind, which in turn motivates the other person to share more information with you. A disagreement feels personal and potentially hostile; we expect a debate to be about ideas, not emotions.[92]

  • When we argue about why we run the risk of becoming emotionally attached to our positions and dismissive of the other side’s. We’re more likely to have a good fight if we argue about how. [92]

Chapter 5 - Dances with Foes

  • When we’re trying to persuade people, we frequently take an adversarial approach. Instead of opening their minds, we effectively shut them down or rile them up. They play defence by putting up a shield, play offence by preaching their perspectives and prosecuting ours or play politics by telling us what we want to hear without changing what they actually think. [102]

  • A good debate is not a war. It’s not even a tug-of-war, where you can drag your opponent to your side if you pull hard enough on the rope. It’s more like a dance that hasn’t been choreographed or negotiated with a partner who has a different set of steps in mind. [104]

  • Convincing other people to think again isn’t just about making a good argument—it’s about establishing that we have the right motives in doing so. When we concede that someone else has made a good point, we signal that we’re not preachers, prosecutors or politicians trying to advance an agenda. We’re scientists trying to get to the truth. [108]

  • Most people immediately start with a straw man, poking holes in the weakest version of the other side’s case. He does the reverse: he considers the strongest version of their case, which is known as the steelman. A politician might occasionally adopt that tactic to pander or persuade, but like a good scientist who does it to learn. Instead of trying to dismantle the argument. [109]

  • There are times when preaching and prosecuting can make us more persuasive. Research suggests that the effectiveness of these approaches hinges on three key factors: [110]

    • How much do people care about the issue?

    • How open they are to our particular argument?

    • How strong-willed they are in general?

  • When someone becomes hostile, if you respond by viewing the argument as a war, you can either attack or retreat. If instead, you treat it as a dance, you have another option—you can sidestep it. Having a conversation about the conversation shifts attention away from the substance of the disagreement and toward the process of having a dialogue. [115]

  • By asking questions rather than thinking for the audience, we invite them to join us as a partner and think for themselves. If we approach an argument as a war, there will be winners and losers. If we see it more as a dance, we can begin to choreograph a way forward. By considering the strongest version of an opponent’s perspective and limiting our responses to our few best steps, we have a better chance of finding a rhythm. [119]

Chapter 6 - Bad Blood on the Diamond

  • A rivalry exists whenever we reserve special animosity for a group we see as competing with us for resources or threatening our identities. [124]

  • As stereotypes stick and prejudice deepens, we don’t just identify with our own group; we disidentify with our adversaries, coming to define who we are by what we’re not. We don’t just preach the virtues of our side; we find self-worth in prosecuting the vices of our rivals. When people hold prejudice toward a rival group, they’re often willing to do whatever it takes to elevate their own group and undermine their rivals—even if it means doing harm or doing wrong. [124]

  • In every human society, people are motivated to seek belonging and status. Identifying with a group checks both boxes at the same time: we become part of a tribe, and we take pride when our tribe wins. [126]

  • Psychologist George Kelly observed that our beliefs are like pairs of reality goggles. We use them to make sense of the world and navigate our surroundings. A threat to our opinions cracks our goggles, leaving our visions blurred. It’s only natural to put up our guard in response—and we become especially hostile when trying to defend opinions that we know, deep down, are false. Rather than trying on a different pair of goggles, we become mental contortionists, twisting and turning until we find an angle of vision that keeps our current views intact. [127]

  • Socially, there’s another reason stereotypes are so sticky. We tend to interact with people who share them, which makes them even more extreme. This phenomenon is called Group Polarisation. [127]

  • Psychologists find that many of our beliefs are cultural truisms: widely shared, but rarely questioned. If we take a closer look at them, we often discover that they rest on shaky foundations. Stereotypes don’t have the structural integrity of a carefully built ship. They’re more like a tower in the game of Jenga—teetering on a small number of blocks, with some key support missing. To knock it over, sometimes all we need to do is give it a poke. The hope is that people will rise to the occasion and build new beliefs on a stronger foundation. [138]

  • As a general rule, it’s those with greater power who need to do more of the rethinking, both because they’re more likely to privilege their own perspectives and because their perspectives are more likely to go unquestioned. [140]

Chapter 7 - Vaccine whisperers and Mild Interrogators

  • Motivational interviewing starts with an attitude of humility and curiosity. We don’t know what might motivate someone else to change, but we’re genuinely eager to find out. The goal isn’t to tell people what to do; it’s to help them break out of overconfidence cycles and see new possibilities. [147]

  • The process of motivational interviewing involves three key techniques:

    • Asking open-ended questions

    • Engaging in reflective listening

    • Affirming the person’s desire and ability to change. [147]

  • When people ignore advice, it isn’t always because they disagree with it. Sometimes they’re resisting the sense of pressure and the feeling that someone else is controlling their decision. To protect their freedom, instead of giving commands or offering recommendations, a motivational interviewer might say something along the lines of “Here are a few things that have helped me—do you think any of them might work for you?”. [150]

  • In motivational interviewing, there’s a distinction between sustained talk and change talk. Sustain talk is a commentary about maintaining the status quo. Change talk is referencing a desire, ability need or commitment to make adjustments. [152]

  • There’s a technique in motivational interviewing which is often recommended for the end of a conversation and for transition points: summarizing. The idea is to explain your understanding of other people’s reasons for change, to check on whether you’ve missed or misrepresented anything, and to inquire about their plans and possible next steps. [153]

  • Part of the beauty of motivational interviewing is that it generates more openness in both directions. Listening can encourage others to reconsider their stance toward us, but it also gives us information that can lead us to question our own views about them. [154]

  • Motivational interviewing requires a genuine desire to help people reach their goals. [155]

  • Listening well is more than a matter of talking less. It’s a set of skills in asking and responding. It starts with showing more interest in other people’s interests rather than trying to judge their status or prove our own. We can all get better at asking “truly curious questions that don’t have the hidden agenda of fixing, saving, advising, convincing or correcting and helping to facilitate the clear expression of another person’s thoughts.” [156]

  • A skilled motivational interviewer resits the righting reflex—although people want a doctor to fix their broken bones, when it comes to problems in their heads, they often want sympathy rather than solutions. [156]

  • Many communicators try to make themselves look smart. Great listeners are more interested in making their audiences feel smart. They help people approach their own views with more humility, doubt and curiosity. When people have a chance to express themselves out loud, they often discover new thoughts. [158]

  • The power of listening doesn’t lie just in giving people the space to reflect on their views. It’s a display of respect and an expression of care. [159]

  • Listening is a way of offering others our scariest, most precious gift: our attention. Once we’ve demonstrated that we care about them and their goals, they’re more willing to listen to us. [160]

  • When we succeed in changing someone’s mind, we shouldn’t only ask whether we’re proud of what we’ve achieved. We should also ask whether we’re proud of how we’ve achieved it. [160]


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