You, my readers, are undoubtedly fairly reasonable people, but you are surrounded by unreasonable people. Lee Ross and Thomas Gillovich help guide us to a more enlightened way of looking at what surrounds us. We tend to admire the person who can come up with a quick response to a problem. The authors maintain the wisest person in the room is slow to judge, preferring to wait for more information.
A quote from the authors: "...many mistakes are made not because the right answer is too hard, but because the wrong answer is too easy." In the first part of the book Ross and Gilovitch recount many different psychology experiments to demonstrate that most of our responses (and those of others) are pre conditioned. When we judge we tend to overlook the bigger context. Most of us could be labeled "naive realists" meaning we think we are realists, but we never know the whole picture.
Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, "I don't like that man, I must get to know him better." The first question after encountering something new should be "Why might my initial impression be wrong?"
Difficult changes occur only after many incremental steps. They recount some stories of people doing amazing things, but at the end of many smaller achievements.
The Middle East baffles those trying to wrestle with it. The authors are reluctant to make specific suggestions. They noted an instance with a Palestinian speaker who admitted their faults. It is more common to complain and believe the other side is the one who is unreasonable. There is a lot of distrust that needs to be broken down.
Closer to home they deal with racial minorities and disadvantaged youths. They are the ones who feel like they do not belong. Do not be patronizing. The authors suggest set high standards and assure them you believe they can achieve them. When the disadvantaged are better understood and encouraged they can be just as productive as anyone else.
Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge for mankind and it has been a very big nut to crack. Individuals are aware their efforts are more than likely counter balanced by those who won't make any effort. There are vested interests with huge amounts of money campaigning against any efforts. The issue has become politicized and bundled with other policies on the Right or Left.
Environmentalists fear an emphasis on mitigation (such as building sea walls) as a distraction, but the authors disagree. Lee and Gilovich see mitigating efforts as a foot in the door. There is an acknowledgment of a problem and sets people to thinking about the next step. Again big changes only happen after a series of smaller steps. Some small steps would include celebrating achievements by individuals, industries or communities and at the same stigmatize offenders, foot draggers and discredit deniers.
A general comment is that the younger generation has helped many positive changes and a wise person would listen to them.
The book ends with an example from Nelson Mandela. After being released from prison and shortly after being elected to run the country he was well aware of antagonism from the whites. Rather than encourage vendettas he decided to adopt one of their interests. He campaigned to get the World Rugby Championships to South Africa and rallied the whole country to the national Springboks. It is well to remember while the whites were obsessed by the Springboks, blacks resented and hated them as symbol of oppression. When Nelson, wearing his Springbok jersey and cheering the team the whole nation united in its support. After their victory the white captain was asked how it felt to get the support of 63,000 fans in the stadium he responded, "...We had the support of 42 million."
There are many psychological insights in the book that a wise person would want to consider. Small things can lead to big things if you think wisely.
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