You’re Wrong

There is a nice piece about confidence from Daniel Kahneman in last week’s New York Times Magazine.  It’s definitely worth a read before you head into your next negotiation.  Especially if you happen to think you’re 100% right and they’re 100% wrong.

Your best friend, your brain, has to sift through a lot of information in any given day, even when you’re not in the midst of a Halloween Movie horror-o-thon.  Part of how it figures out how to process all of that information is by chunking it up into smaller bits.  Those smaller bits are accepted or rejected as important based on whether your brain deems them to be valuable.  Rather than closely analyze each bit, your brain uses short cuts; heuristics in fancy psychological language.  The theory of interest based negotiations finds its origin in a paper Kahneman and Amos Tversky did on judgement and decision making heuristics in 1974.

By Reigh LeBlanc via

But back to that part about how you’re wrong.

Your brain is very invested in its little process working, so when it gets a piece of information that  seems to contradict an opinion you hold near and dear, an opinion that your brain helped form with its selective chunking, it rejects it.  Full on Jedi “These Are Not The Droids You’re Looking For” rejects it.  Your brain protects you from the horrible realization that you might very well be wrong.

Which means you aren’t rational.  Even when you try especially hard to be.

That also means that neither is the other side in any negotiation you’re having.  They are reacting to what they believe, what their brain has told them, to be right.  And if you insist on persuading them by telling them that they are wrong because you are right, you will get nowhere and fast.

So don’t. Show them how your solution makes sense from their perspective.  Use your knowledge of their interests, needs, wants and desires to present your argument in a way their brain is more likely to accept as valuable. Use their brain to make your argument.

Featured image by aweigend via

Categories: Dealing with People, Negotiation Strategy


Tags: , , ,

« Good Advice #2: Getting What You Want

How to Negotiate Like a Rock Star, Part I »

82 responses to “You’re Wrong”

  1. I LOVE this. Why can’t we share this with religious and political zealots throughout the world, who spend countless hours trying to convince everyone that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

    See: Biologically, it’s just not a good idea. Try middle of the road — listening, understanding that everyone comes to an issue/argument with their own filters/perspectives, and spend time inspiring further critical thought rather than trying to convince someone you are right and they are wrong.


  2. Fascinating. Thanks for this peek into our (annoyingly stubborn) brains.

  3. Having some understanding and appreciation of other folks’ patterns of thought is indeed vital to communal life and negotiating daily needs. Just how, tho, do we go about achieving that same undestanding of our own patterns/inhibitions of understanding using the very instrument we are attempting to analyse?

    • Katie says:

      @DoF@theinfill A mighty fine question! 🙂 Luckily our brains can do more than just one thing at a time. There is a good amount of evidence to show that being aware of these biases helps lessen their impact on our thinking. But it’s the heavy lifting version of being aware: it requires practice, patience and a concerted effort to not let these subconscious biases take control.

  4. Good post!

    I wish I didn’t agree with you, but there you have it. )

    Have you read, “You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself” by David McRaney? I’ve only just gotten into it, and it sings the same song as your post, and adds a lot of evidence as well.

    • Katie says:

      @Richard I follow his blog, but haven’t picked up the book yet. I need to put it on my library holds list! I really enjoy his writing style and he provides a great links to the studies he references in his posts.

    • That sounds like a great read as well as the article in reference. I always wonder about the amount of facebook friends and how it effects your personal and business life. That sounds like it has some logical answers in it. Thanks 🙂

  5. Cathy says:

    This is really interesting. We are not rational beings after all. Lol

  6. Interesting post… since we’re not robots, I don’t foresee combating this heuristics finding. Unless, of course, you can convince me otherwise.

    • Katie says:

      @The Simple Life of a Country Man’s Wife We’re not robots, thankfully! Our brains can learn new behaviors and ways of thinking. Being aware of our natural biases (and appreciating that they’re there for good reasons) can help us learn how to best use them. It can take a lot of hard work to not let these biases take control when you don’t want them to, but you can teach your brain new tricks. 🙂

  7. valentinedee says:

    Yes, I do indeed hear this! And I love it. I’m big on the mind and how it works, and I believe that the scientists can’t be perfectly sure as to what the brain does, but it’s correlation with the mind can definitely cause our defense mechanisms to kick in. Very good points you made.


  8. Alli says:

    “Use your knowledge of their interests, needs, wants and desires to present your argument in a way their brain is more likely to accept as valuable. Use their brain to make your argument.”

    Excellent advice. 🙂

  9. midnitechef says:

    Now I have to go read that paper 🙂 Congrats on FP!

  10. Ben Scott says:

    Really good reading I think! or am I wrong? No in fact i’m 100% right! I think!

  11. This is is amazing and so true. I love anything dealing with how the mind works. I know I personally don’t respond well to someone telling me I’m wrong, just because they think they’re right…with no evidence! LOL

  12. mikeediet says:

    This is a way for everyone to widen their minds and how the way they think! 🙂

  13. Anne Schilde says:

    Haha, I’ve always been a little proud of being one of those people who just suggests I’m wrong to start with. Some people think it’s annoying and self-deprecating and two words: what ever. It doesn’t matter how great my memory is, or how expansive my knowledge is, it’s not even possible to be right. Well, I could be wrong, I suppose. 🙂
    I’ve read stuff like this before about the fragility of the ego and how it protects itself this way. Basically, our egos are structures of our beliefs, a house of cards. Any threat to one of the core beliefs could bring our entire identity crashing to the ground. So our mind weeds out ideas it perceives as threats, the same way antibodies weed out viruses.
    Great post and thanks for supporting my theory that I’m not annoying and self-deprecating!

  14. What a great post!!!! I just wrote this same idea to someone on FB about trying to “sway” people to accept what they consider to be “the truth”. You cannot tell people what to think. You have to show them that what you say or think is USEFUL to them, beneficial, something they should want to know, emulate or think. Then YOU have all of the power, b/c it is THEIR idea. And who cares if they take credit for “thinking” of it that way. Bottom line is you got the result you desired and they feel like they are “winning” (to use one of this year’s favorite buzz-words!) I am very glad I learned about this ‘heuristics’ (with out knowing that this was what I was learning about) early in my life. It has been invaluable to me as an inventor and teacher of new concepts. People are so scared of “new” things, this approach is very helpful in keeping them interested and breaking through the “That Cannot Be Right” barrier! Enjoy your FP day! Congrats!!!! 🙂 AmberLena

  15. Michelle says:

    Great post! We’ve been discussing a lot of similar things in my Social Psychology class. I love learning about things like this and how the mind works 🙂 It helps me understand the motivations of others too. Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  16. natasiarose says:

    I hate how the mind works! I’m pretty sure I AM always right. :-p

  17. Ibi says:

    good post

  18. Excellent post! Not understanding that our minds really do work this way gets between a lot of young professionals and what they want – and they don’t even notice it.

  19. Great article, especially since we live in a cutthroat world. I’ll admit that religious zealots need to look at this but so do the godless zealots of liberal causes too.

  20. Sally. says:


  21. Very interesting Article

  22. a very rational blog. i like it.. if only everyone would practice that then i bet, this world would be a better place to live… :p

  23. asoulwalker says:

    There does seem to be a lack of understanding of belief mechanisms and the role they play in our lives. To hear about some of the biology involved is always interesting. Great post. Cheers.

  24. Will says:

    Dear Katie: that’s all well and fine, your thesis. But try explaining the right/wrong thought process in our brains after a brain injury. Things aren’t quite that neat and easy to explain:

    I am a person of superior intelligence [ya – it’s documented!], and a survivor of a ruptured cerebral hemorrhage (brain aneurysm), in my right temporal lobe. Also, add to that mix a diagnosis of High Functioning Adult Autism (HFAA) and you’ve got a mind nobody can comprehend!

    It’s down the rabbit hole with your neat theories! Organic personality change happens, mood discontrol, and concrete thinking. On the other hand, sometimes profound epiphany happens. And HFAA is also a documented valuable trait in one profession….the profession I am now retired from : news reporting!

    The really interesting bit is that a significant portion of the population either has a nascent brain aneurysm waiting to strike at any time, or has had at least one small stroke without even realizing it!

    “The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of many things…” Come play with me on my blog [above].

    The human brain is the real Undiscovered Country.

    i guess my point is that simple, neat prescriptions for human brain activity are unsupportable.

  25. Will says:


    Me again, just to let you know I think your post is of important enough merit to add to my blogroll at:


    Will T

    • Katie says:

      Thanks for including me, Will!

      You’re right to point out that the brain is a fascinating and complex creature. Understanding how it functions under one set of circumstances doesn’t always mean it will operate that way under all circumstances. It’s actually more likely that it won’t.

      There are a lot of basics to the brain that are understood and can provide us with gateways to better understand behavior, both ours and others’. Like you, I am interested in understanding the brain and why it works the way it does.


  26. This is very interesting! I think it is very important to try to understand someone else’s perspective when debating. I wrote an article about dealing with opposing opinions on my blog. You should check it out, I’d like to hear what you think! Here’s the link:

  27. Emily929 says:

    NICE! I will share this with my honors comp class tomorrow and have them write about it. I think I will blog about it myself. Links and pingbacks coming.

  28. C.D. Colt says:

    Great post thanks for sharing that.

  29. use their brain to make your point, i like that and its so true. what a person choses to accept does have to go according to their mind state, so by making your point according to their own mind state you diffinitly have a better chance of getting to them, and you will also be in a better position to see their points as well.

  30. TJ Johnston says:

    I found this nice post on Freshly Pressed. Where could I learn to use those Jedi mind tricks?

  31. Jezzmindah says:

    Hmmm…..still pretty sure that I’m right 😉 haha

  32. Sherilyn says:

    Great post! Thank you for this–some great coaching, even for arguing with a spouse.

  33. Interesting. Ties right in with CBT.

  34. Matt Sanchez says:

    It’s all about perspective. Being able to see from another perspective can make all the difference. Great post!

  35. This is so well written. It is short and to the point. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed too.
    The information you have shared is so good and so relevant.
    Really liked your blog.

  36. I barely use my own brain, so using someone else’s would be pretty difficult. I’ll just get them to look somewhere, and spring my argument on them while they’re not looking at it too closely.

  37. Excellent! This protective narrative goes further than just opinions though, it dictates how you perceive and interact with the world. A cognative therapist once used the example of anorexia to prove this point – no matter how starved, emaciated and skeleton the image in the mirror, the brain will still tell you you are looking at a fat person. So in extreme cases, the mind would rather kill the organ than admit that it is wrong. Very sad.

  38. beyondanomie says:

    It’s certainly true that human beings generally process data in a heuristic manner. It’s a very useful evolutionary trait as it permits problem-solving/danger-recognition in a much more rapid manner than if we had to rely on calculator-like number-crunching. It allows human beings to rapidly selectively filter important information out of a vast swathe of data entering our brain every second. This kind of instant stereotyping is essential to daily life. It’s right more often than it’s wrong, so it’s helpful, generally.

    The art of persuasion is good “theory of mind” (google it if you’re not familiar with the psychological term or search my blog for the term; I’ve blogged about it a few times in different contexts). Being able to put yourself in another’s shoes & solve the problem as _they_ see it is all about identifying and shaping their unconscious/unspoken mental concepts into a reality they can accept.

    Of course, it’s easier to perform this feat with practice. The reason for that? While a natural talent for sensing the emotional temperature of a room helps, your own heuristic ability to perform the task becomes refined with practice; you acquire more experiential data that gets unconsciously added to your algorithm. If you then consciously take note of what that sense is telling you, this then helps you structure your discussion in such a way that it naturally leads in your intended direction without them feeling a need to disagree. Negotiation, sales, politics, some elements of my own field (psychiatry), aspects of interpersonal relationships… it’s all the same thing really, and draws on the same skill set.

    Logic rarely settles an argument unless both parties want it to, and even then one person can go away unhappy. It’s simpler & more effective to add an emotional component into the solution as well. In fact, sometimes a strong emotional component is enough for two sides to move forward even when the logical disagreement remains, which is quite amusing when you think about it.

    PS. good selection of posts in the Freshly Pressed list today!

  39. Amazing topic and discussion!
    Some people pointed out the perspective as an equation to be added to the knowlege of our brain structure. I can only think of Nietzsche’s perspectivism theory, wich I always found fascinating and considered to be the right way to go in life, as human evolution and awareness.
    Turns out, 100 years later, Nietzsche was right!! 🙂

  40. This gives the expression “picking brains” a whole new meaning! 🙂 I’ll take your advice in mind. 😀

  41. Great post, this was very informative. Thanks for sharing!

  42. youreitnav says:

    I sternly live by this: Each individual has grown involved in a different aspect to life than the next, and/or opposing, individual and therefore each word escaping their mouth has a reasoning unique to them; in turn, that can not make their opinion right or wrong. This theory of ‘you’re wrong’ is rather obvious in our culture – at least to me; I think it to be much like an unwritten rule. Most of us know that we ‘rationalize’ mentally before speaking [whether that process takes mere milliseconds or genuine time] out of pure selfishness. I do not intend to speak hypocritically here. I am an admirer of knowledge. I do my best to attempt learning all that I am able within each moment; yet, I can not say that, when caught off guard, I do not dismiss ideas in the exact moment they are spoken to me. I appreciate most of what is said to me. If I can not accept it then, please believe me when I say that I do analyse the previously dismissed idea later in time; whether I continue to think these previously ignored ideas to be unworthy or false is not always true. Long story short: I believe this theory to be quite conclusive. The examples happen almost as a common as breathing.

  43. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing this valuable piece of information! To be honest, I was skeptical, fearful even; “oh no, a ‘scientific’ post”. BUT not only did I understood what you wrote, I enjoyed reading it! Excellent!

  44. trusscommunicate says:

    One might chalk it up to simple audience analysis. Meet them where they are. Thanks for sharing the insight and information.

  45. Love this and will be using it soon!

  46. If only everybody’s brain could accept that I am always right 🙂

    Great post!

  47. Interesting! Really good reading I think! or am I wrong?

  48. Very business like. “use their brains so that your argument is accepted”. What a way for technological advancement if it is to be used in an almost ‘cruel, one sided’ way where there is certain amount of ‘benefit’ derived from it for one side only. Keeping the ‘other’ side dark which is equivalent to ‘bad’ in today’s linguistic fora.

  49. Good advice when applying for a new job as well. Show how, you, the solution, work well in solving thier problem.

  50. Interesting article. I guess as our brains evolve, truth does as well. The house of cards defense made me think of how what we learn dictates what we believe. Take for example two people looking at the sky. If Person B tells Person A that the sky is blue while Person A says it is red, we’d normally conclude that Person A is wrong. However, what would happen if we found out that either:

    Person B was taught from an early age that the name for what is actually yellow was blue (Person A was right).


    Person A was taught from an early age that the name for what we call blue was actually red (Both Person A & B were wrong, or Person B was right and the rest of us including Person A were wrong).

    One way or another, someone is going to get their reality shattered.

  51. jlriii says:

    Dear Science,
    You’re a little bit late. Socrates brought this fact to our attention a LONG time ago lol

    “All I know is that I know nothing” – Socrates

  52. Stonehead says:

    when it gets a piece of information that seems to contradict an opinion you hold near and dear… it rejects it

    Is that always true for all people, though? I once worked in troubleshooting roles where one of my advantages was that my brain often doesn’t reject information that seems anomalous to my world view. Instead, my instinctive response is to analyse the points of conflict between my world view and the new information then adjust my view as needed to get the two to work together.

    The closest analogy I can think of would be that instead of looking at a jigsaw, holding up a piece and thinking “no, that won’t fit” any of the holes, I take hold of the jigsaw and manipulate it to create a hole for the piece. Even if I feel the information is unreliable or lacking in validity, the piece is still useful in filling a hole as the uncertainty tells me something in itself.

    It’s an attribute that can make for successful negotiations and problem solving but it can leave some people disconcerted—they like a degree of rigidity in the mindset of people with whom they are dealing as it’s familiar and more easily opposed.

    • Katie says:

      Great question & one near and dear to my heart!

      Some people value problem solving, so instead of seeing anomalous information as threatening, they see it as the opportunity for a fun challenge. In very basic terms, because they place greater value on solving problems than in being right, they are less susceptible to being blind to new information. BUT! if they were introduced to new information that indicated new information is threatening and not helpful, they would likely ignore that new info. 🙂

  53. hey nice post I really loved this one

  54. No, I don’t agree with this article. You are wrong and I am right. I’m convinced of that. 😉

    Great post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  55. ualeem says:

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  56. therooflesschurch says:

    This is good to know. If only I knew this several relationships ago. Now I see why people fight doing things that are good for them even when it will help them achieve their own goals.

    I actually have a practice of listening to audiobooks from people who contradict my spiritual, philosophical, and ethical beliefs so that I can get good at listening to ideas that make me uncomfortable. Unfortunately that has worked against me to so degree. Now I see why. I’ve set my mind up to listen but have not practiced communicating to be heard. New shift coming on. Now I need a practice to help me follow your advice. In the past I would have considered that manipulation because I thought it would be trying to subvert their free will. It probably still is, but with God’s help, I will use the powers for good.

  57. Bindu says:

    Now I understand why I couldn’t convince a parent the other day about the problems his daughter was creating. I should have put it in some other way taking him in to confidence. Let me try that a second time. Helpful post.

  58. Bliss Fish says:

    Wow! We create our own reality and then seemingly hire the security guards, spin doctors and propagandists to keep it so!

  59. Thanks for the post! It was like reading a physical therapy brochure – practice, exercise, stretching in order to strengthen the weaker muscles…over time, maybe, just maybe I can get my brain in shape enough to do such feats.

  60. Wow. That is so simple and yet most of us (including myself) would have never thought of turning a negotiation session in that manner.

  61. tberckmann says:

    By your own logic, couldn’t this article very well be wrong?

  62. carpetbeater says:

    …..from the perspective of someone with scar tissue on his hippocampus, the bit that does the initial chopping, analyzing and throwing away, the initial filter I suppose, I can now fully understand why I was such a good salesman.
    Empathy with a client was always the route, or at least convincing them they were right about the design, the colour, the practicality but the price, now that’s another story. Rationalise a profit margin? It might save consumerism, of which I am a willing sinner.

  63. Sharvil says:

    Someone needed to post this way before! I am in ur debts for posting this.
    Thank you very much 🙂
    what an awesome post! 😀

  64. very interesting post !! i enjoyed it

  65. Bubu says:

    i’m using this piece of advice. heee. informative post.

  66. riaroseknows says:

    What a WONDERFUL article! This is exactly the message I am trying to spread whenever I’m down at Occupy Wall Street. It’s not about being “against” these people so-to-speak but UNDERSTANDING their thought processes. Whether we agree with them or not is a whole other ballgame but at least we can begin to get into their heads and we can place the ideas of change into them.

    Thank you so much for this and it has helped solidify my thoughts perfectly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

RSS Feed

From the Blog

5 Things to Know Before You Sign Your Publishing Contract

The following is the first of five emails from a free e-course about understanding publishing contracts. You can sign up for the rest of the course here. In any publishing deal, you're in charge. That's because a publishing contract is you giving the publisher permission to use your work. They need permission and


Subscribe to the Work Made For Hire Blog

Twitter Updates

Upcoming Workshops

Check back soon!

Email Subscription

Want Katie's tips via email?

Sign up here: