“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” — Albert Einstein
Just like you can develop your body, you can develop your mind.
You can have a beautiful mind.
In fact, like a fine wine, your mind can get better with age. According to Edward de Bono, “there is very much more that you can do to make your mind more beautiful.”
In the book, How to Have a Beautiful Mind, Edward de Bono writes about how to develop a beautiful mind.
What is a Beautiful Mind
What does it mean to have a beautiful mind? Having a beautiful mind means:
- You can easily explore ideas with others.
- You can appreciate alternative points of view.
- You can find possibilities and alternatives.
- When you disagree, you can spell out the differences with clarity and precision.
- When there’s a difference of opinion, you can openly explore the basis of the difference.
- Rather than just black or white, you can see the shades of gray.
- You make it a point to be interesting.
Here are some cornerstone concepts that act as a foundation for a beautiful mind:
- Exploring ideas is more beautiful than making a case. (Argumentation is not beautiful.)
- Gentle disagreement is more beautiful than aggressive disagreement.
- Being interesting is more beautiful than showing you are clever.
Ways to Agree
Here are some ways that de Bono suggests to find agreement:
- Take a genuine delight in finding agreement.
- Seek to find points of agreement.
- Explore the subject versus argue a point.
- Remove your ego from the discussion
- Explore the other person’s logical bubble (how they see their world)
- Identify special circumstances in which you might agree
- Identify special values in which you might agree (“If I valued xyz, then I would agree.”)
- Identify special experience in which you might agree (“If I had had the experience of xyz, then I would agree.”)
- Disagree with a generalization, but agree with some parts of it.
- See a spectrum between none vs. all: none, a few, some, many, most, the majority, by and large, all.
Ways to Disagree
Here are some ways that de Bono suggests to disagree without being disagreeable:
- Don’t treat difference of opinion as a bad thing.
- Challenge certainty by suggesting possibility.
- Distinguish between having an opinion and disagreeing with an opinion.
- Identify the sources of differences (experience, values, focus, point of view, etc.)
- When you disagree about what’s “best,” remember that best depends on how you define it (easiest, fastest, most scenic, etc.)
- Spell out the difference in the two perceptions.
- Spell out the difference in personal preferences (You may be using different sets of values.)
- Spell out that your experience may be different.
- Acknowledge that you may have different views about the future (“We seem to have different views about what might happen in the future.”)
- Jointly explore differences in experience. (It may be that the experience is value, but that the interpretation of the experience is not the only one.)
Ways to Be Interesting
Here are some ways that de Bono suggests to be interesting:
- Choose to be interesting over clever.
- Talk about what you are good at and what interests you.
- Tailor your language based on your audience: Those who know nothing about the subject, and those that know something about the subject and want to know more.
The Range of Disagreement
By knowing the range of disagreement, you can better understand sources of disagreement. de Bono identifies a spectrum of disagreement possibilities:
- That is simply wrong.
- That is possible, but not certain.
- That is only one of many alternatives.
- That fits your experience.
- That fits your values.
- That is right for you, but not for me.
- That is based on emotions and prejudice.
- That is based on selective perception.
- That conclusion does not follow.
- That is one possible view of the future.
When Are Opinions Wrong
I just had to throw this in here, because it’s something many of us run into in our day to day experience.
Sometimes opinions are wrong.
de Bono gives a very nice example where people pass around a glass in the dark and ask whether it’s whiskey or cognac. The opinions differ, but there is only one truth or correct answer in this case.
This is useful to keep in mind because if there’s a difference of opinion, but it’s about facts, then you can just check the facts.
When the disagreement is not about facts, then you have to explore the shades of gray, values, perception, perspective, etc.