|What if I’m wrong?
Critical Thinking teaches us to understand the assumptions we are making before we make a decision. We look at those assumptions and make sure they are strong, based on true facts, relevant experience, good data, reliable sources of information, appropriate analysis, etc. When we come to a conclusion, we feel confident in our thinking and in our process. We can present our thinking with high credibility and enroll, influence and get others to agree enthusiastically.
BUT … While Critical Thinking greatly increases the probability of success, there is no guarantee that every decision will be the best one, or even a good one. No one, no process, no procedure, no thinking is perfect. We are also challenged to make decisions when we’re not as confident as we would like to be, such as when you can’t get all the data or you’re out of time and need to decide.
Knowing that everything isn’t perfect, one of the handy tools is to ask “What if I’m wrong?”.
• What if I’m wrong about the time or $ estimate to complete that project?
• What if I’m wrong about that hire?
• What if I’m wrong about the advice I gave my child?
• What if I’m wrong about saying “No” because I thought the long term consequence outweighed the short term disappointment?
• What if I’m wrong about cancelling a doctor visit because the pain in my side went away?
• What if I’m wrong about thinking that what is unimportant to me is unimportant to someone else?
• What if I’m wrong about buying that stock, or selling that other one?
• What if I’m wrong about accusing someone of stealing?
• What if I’m wrong about buying that T.V.?
• What if I’m wrong about the priority of something?
Even if we ask the question “What if I’m wrong?”, because of our confidence, we’ll often automatically say, “If I’m wrong, I’ll deal with it”.
Asking “What if I’m wrong?” has it’s place. You don’t want to get hung up on “What if I’m wrong?” on something that either doesn’t matter, or isn’t a big deal.
But, for those things that do matter, asking “What if I’m wrong?” leads to very constructive conversations such as;
• If I’m wrong, how would I know? What can I measure that will give me an idea of if things are going the way they should, or not?
• If I’m wrong, can I mitigate and/or minimize the consequence? How would we manage the downside of a bad decision? Is it manageable?
• If I’m wrong, can I reverse the decision? (Can you bring that purchase back if your spouse doesn’t like it).
• If I’m wrong, do we have a plan B .. should we have a plan B?
• If I’m wrong about a short term decision, is it still worth the risk vs. the long term benefit or consequence if I’m right?
• If I’m wrong, how would we stop or modify the current initiative to implement the other choice?
The Takeaway: Asking “If I’m wrong?” isn’t about second guessing, or not being confident, or analyzing something to death. It’s about stimulating thinking around the possibilities. This not only allows you to have a fall back strategy in case you are wrong, but will even increase your confidence in making the decision.