Daily, snackable writings and podcasts to spur changes in thinking. Why?

If we wish to change the person we find ourselves to be, we must change our thinking.

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WHY APOLOGIES DO NOT WORK

July 13th, 2019

The current ‘cancel culture’ that rages through the avenues of social media is an intensely supercharged case study that highlights why apologies don’t work.

 

I’m sorry.

 

Everyone hears this, everyone says it.  And it doesn’t take much digging around to realize the subtle and inconvenient mechanism here that makes sorryvery problematic – especially in a culture geared towards instant satisfaction.

 

We can approach the problem more obviously by invoking a perennial example:

 

When someone apologies repeatedly for the same mistake, how meaningful is the apology?

 

Most everyone has had some exposure to this kind of behavior, whether in themselves or others.  If a mistake is continually made and apologized for, then the apology quickly loses any meaning.  It starts sounding like a lie because it is not indicating any change in behavior for the future.

 

The hazy ground here is intention, especially when we care deeply for the person apologizing.  In that case we truly want to believe the apology because we yearn for a better world where the mistake isn’t being made.  This lovable human foible is completely non-existent in cancel culture because the social platforms upon which cancel culture thrives is occurring just about exclusively between strangers.  These are not loved ones attacking loved ones as might happen over a turkey dinner during Thanksgiving.

 

It’s far easier to dismiss someone and their apology when people have no interest in believing the apology.

 

This is at the heart of why apologies don’t work, especially in the age of social media: an apology, as an indication of changed future behavior has a 50% chance of being a complete lie.  When faced with a mob there’s simply no other option than to try to apologized, but it’s obvious to everyone that such an apology is more about saving face in that moment than it is about behavioral change. Even if there is an honest and genuine intention behind the apology, the crucial ingredient to test for it does not fit into the framework of social media, that is: time.

 

The only way to find out if an apology truly is genuine is to stick around and see if the person apologizing makes the mistake again.

 

 

We must, for a moment take an aside to wonder about the individual’s sheer ability to change.  Behavioral change can be very difficult, even with a complete and genuine wish to change.  A single visit to an alcoholics anonymous meeting or any drug addiction support group meeting will demonstrate just how confused, conflicted and angry a single individual can be about the paradox of their own behavior when held up against their wishes to act otherwise.

 

Regardless of this core complicating fact of human behavior, the audience for most apologies just isn’t willing to stick around to see if a person will change.  The default assumption is that such a person won’t change, because they are either lying, or because behavior change is so difficult, that such a person simply can’t change, despite how genuine the apology might be.

 

In terms of probability, with the odds of behavior change stacked against the person making the apology, the receiver of such an apology makes a safer bet by assuming that the apology will not bear the fruit it promises… as pessimistic as that might sound.

 

The framework of social media as epitomized by the infinite scroll of the social feed that constantly gives us something new, has no time nor mechanism to wait around to verify the behavior change of a person apologizing.  Within this framework, the default assumption reigns supreme.  Social media makes no room for any other option.  Because there is a constant and never-ending line up of things we can experience on social media, we only ever have time for a first impression.

 

What percentage of tweets or posts do people go back to 3-4 times to reflect upon in order to fully unpack the context?  This kind of behavior is without a doubt extremely rare.  And given the way social media has been constructed, the likelihood that we will see a behavioral change on the part of the masses using such social media is extremely low, like an addict who is functionally blind to the chemical framework of addiction that lies active deep within their brain.

 

Given that we’ve placed ourselves between the rock and hard place of social media frameworks, we are left only with brute force strategies that are hard to swallow.

 

Considering that it’s impossible to apologize in a way that immediately wins over the masses, the only option left is to apologize only once and then endeavor to change behavior accordingly.

 

As part of the mass audience for apologies, the strategy is to delay reaction, to counter the intoxication of the tribe with the reflective pause of the individual mind and reserve judgment for the long-term.

 

Both of these require difficult long-term behaviors that are only possible with a calm mind.

 

As the old adage goes: actions speak louder than words,

 

but note:  actions take time, and words we can rattle off nearly instantly.  So what speaks loudest takes time to hear.

 


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Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 454: Why Apologies Do Not Work

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Tinkered Thinking


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AFTER DOES NOT EXIST

July 12th, 2019

Particularly in the world of exercise and physique, the practice of comparing ‘before’ and ‘after’ is widespread.

 

Exactly what is the subject here when we refer to a situation before it and after it?

 

Some sort of change, naturally.  However, this is a cognitive misnomer.  The concept of ‘before’ whether it refer to physique or something else is representative of an old status quo.  The real problem is with the term ‘after’.  It telegraphs the sense of what movies do with montages. That there is some sort of concentrated event and voila, there’s a new easy status quo that is remarkably better.

 

What fails to come across with the use of ‘after’ is that a process of change is often still in motion.

 

It would be more appropriate to say ‘before’ and ‘during’, since the results that we are reporting are the result of a process in progress.

 

The real difference between before and during is not some isolated incident like popping a pill.

 

The difference is merely starting.


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Podcast Ep. 453: After Does Not Exist

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Tinkered Thinking


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DOORS

July 11th, 2019

In movies, doors seem frivolous, mere commas in the action of the story that characters pass through, unless of course a door has a particularly guarded significance, like the door to a bank vault. These special doors aside, characters in movies appear to have far more relaxed rules of personal space regarding doors.  Opening an unlocked door and casually venturing forth is far less common in real life than it is in movies.  It’s useful to ask, why?

 

The narratives that we create and tell each other are ultimately imbued with far more courage and risk taking than we ourselves are comfortable taking in real life.  With such stories, we are not just seeking to explain parts of our own existence, we are trying to influence the way we exist, and the way we behave.

 

Throwing out a counter-productive personal narrative that has had us spinning wheels for years is a fast way to touch ground with those tires and gain traction.  Often the story we tell ourselves has us distracted from other, better stories that are either available or waiting to be invented.

 

The story we tell ourselves is most likely filled with doors that we never dare to open, just like real life.  Everyday we walk past hundreds if not thousands of doors and we only ever try to open doors that we know we are meant to open. Granted, those of us who are not thieves respect what we imagine these doors to mean in real life.  Concepts of privacy and personal property dominate our milquetoast daring, and mostly for good reason.  The highlight here is how casually these concepts are violated in fiction, and often for a greater and justifiable purpose.

 

We might challenge ourselves with a thought experiment entailing all the doors in the real world: how many physical doors exist that we can walk through without any negative consequence.  We might think of the front doors of the headquarters for a company we admire and perhaps dream of working at.  This number alone can be in the hundreds if not thousands. Phone calls and emails and even tweeting at someone all constitute walking through a kind of doorway.  And all of these things are free, and yet, in spite of being free we often find them far more difficult than spending large amounts of money for some thing or endeavor or vacation, even though these free chances could lead to far better lives.

 

Unlike a wall, a door is fundamentally meant to be used to go through.  The catch is who is allowed to go through that door.  Often we have automatically decided against our own selves, when really the doors we seek might be unlocked.


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Podcast Ep. 452: Doors

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Tinkered Thinking


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CRAFTING RIDDLES

July 10th, 2019

Einstein once said “we cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.”

 

The cognitive move that he’s suggesting is termed lateral thinking.

 

If rational thinking is often visualized as a step by step process, each step giving rise to the next, in a sequential order like stepping stones, then lateral thinking would be the equivalent of taking a right turn and swimming off into unknown territory.  To echo Einstein, it is the ability to abandon the train of thought in which a problem is created in order to approach the matter from a radically different angle.

 

The word problem is appropriately a bit… problematic in this sense.  Problems can perpetuate, like a sort of static quo.  We think of problems like stubborn, hard-to-move realities, which do not lend well to the discovery of their solution.

 

We can ask: what is the first step in order to solve a problem?

 

This question actually represents – recursively – the first step to solving any given problem.

 

It is a micro problem, and what it reveals is the connection between problems and questions.

 

Problems can be reworded as questions, and often the solution to a problem is dependent on rephrasing the problem into the appropriate question.  We generally don’t give much thought to the art and practice of forming questions, but this is the underlying practice that creates a foundation of creativity in nearly all fields.

 

 

We are always only a single question away from thinking in a much better direction.

 

Riddles, present one of the juiciest examples of question forming.  The solution to many riddles often depends on some alternate lateral interpretation of some key piece of information.

 

Take for example this short riddle:

 

Say my name and I disappear.  Who am I?

 

Finding the answer depends on reinterpreting the subject of the riddle and realizing that the ‘name’ is not a person at all, but a thing.  We can reword the riddle and see that it’s perhaps easier to solve.

 

What ceases to exist while we are speaking?

 

The questions have the same answer, but they reframe the problem differently.  We can rephrase the question again and see if the solution becomes even more obvious:

 

What is present while we are not talking but suddenly doesn’t exist once we start talking and is therefore probably like the opposite of talking?

 

In this way, rephrasing problems as questions and then rephrasing those question can actually allow us to close in on an answer, so much so that the rephrased questions begin to describe the solution.

 

Solving problems, is in many ways dependent on the art of crafting riddles, or simply put, asking better questions.


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 451: Crafting Riddles

from
Tinkered Thinking


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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.




A FRIEND FOREVER

July 9th, 2019

Loneliness can seem somewhat paradoxical when considered in one’s own company.  The sentiment seems to call into mind an idea of there always being two people in a person. Our simple ability to reflect on our own thoughts and emotions in real time generates enough of a remove to at least create a helpful illusion.

 

In the meditation practice of Metta, one is directed to think of another person with loving-kindness and wish them free of suffering and hope that they experience fulfillment and joy.  This practice is often then redirected to take one’s own self as the object of Metta.  To wish one’s self well as we might wish a good friend well.

 

For those who are often very hard on themselves, this can be a difficult task that can easily produce remorse.  This common tendency begs a larger question: why do we not seek to build a friendship with ourselves?

 

It’s not uncommon for a person to be self-sacrificing to a fault, giving to a point where they are incurring detriment.  One way to think about this a little more clearly is to imagine a person giving to a friend at the expense of another friend who is loved and cherished equally.  The situation makes no sense.  What we are best off to seek is the win-winwhere we can give at no detriment, because the person who is self-sacrificing to a fault ultimately harms those relationships in the long-term when the cost is more apparent.

 

More importantly, if we investigate the mind closely enough, it’s quite difficult to find the person we think we are.  If this seems confusing, we can contemplate this question:

 

Can you locate the source of your attention that allows you to read and understand this sentence?

 

Or rather,

 

can your attention pay attention to itself?

 

 

. . . not really. 

 

It’s a bit like trying to use a camera to take a picture of the very same camera without the use of a mirror.  It’s simply impossible to point the camera at itself.

 

 

We are, in a sense, constantly witnessing who we’ve turned out to be.  We witness thoughts arise, we do not predict them, for to try and predict a thought is to actually have it.

 

 

Reflecting on one’s own self in this way, the little separation can help foster a sense of good will, in the same way it’s easy to foster good will towards others.

 

At the very least, at the end of the day, you’re stuck with yourself.

 

or, we can look at it differently:

 

You will always have your own company.  In light of that, it’s probably best to make a good friend.


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

or
Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 450: A Friend Forever

from
Tinkered Thinking


donating = loving

If you appreciate the work of Tinkered Thinking, please consider lending support. This platform can only continue and flourish with the support of readers and listeners like you.

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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.