Don’t You Think If I Were Wrong, I’d Know It? (A 5 Point Psychological Dissection)

Don’t You Think If I Were Wrong, I’d Know It? (A 5 Point Psychological Dissection)

I admit. I’ve never seen an episode of The Big Bang Theory. For years now, people have been telling me it would be my kind of humor. Yet, I’ve just never gotten around to watching it.

However, thanks to an Internet meme, I am definitely aware of a funny line that Sheldon apparently said in Episode 2 of Season 3:

“Don’t you think if I were wrong, I’d know it?”

I find that quote to be worthy of dissecting, from a psychological point of view.

For a person to ask that question, it assumes the following about them:

  1. They have the ability to always instantly self-identify when they are about to be wrong.
  2. Therefore, they immediately change their mindset, convictions, and actions the moment they identify truth; and always do it before anyone else can notice it.
  3. Therefore, they technically are only privately wrong about anything for a split-second, since they have the ability to notice it right away.
  4. Therefore, they are immune to human accountability.
  5. Therefore, they have the privilege of legitimately being close-minded to all constructive criticism.

And here’s the irony of that theory:

In reality, a person who is close-minded to constructive criticism is limiting their ability to learn more and improve their own life, therefore proving they are less intelligent than those who are open to learning.

Therefore, to ensure I don’t endanger myself of having such a close-minded mindset where I believe I am immune to constructive criticism, I constantly assume I am wrong at least 50% of the time.

My self-esteem is high and I have much confidence in my ability to make good decisions. However, it would limit me to believe that only in a rare occasion could I be wrong about something.

On the contrary, I am fully aware I put myself in a position to get further in life A) by being so open to criticism to learn to be a more efficient and educated human being and B) because so many people on this planet are not willing to so, therefore putting me further ahead.

The general concept is introduced in Robert Kiyosaki’s Best Seller book: Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

He explains that the people who get ahead and stay head in business are the ones who are willing to do that things that most people aren’t willing to do.

I have learned that most, or at least many, people are not willing to make themselves a sponge for constructive criticism.

Instead, they allow themselves to become victims because they give power and authority to other people by giving them the authority to “hurt my feelings.”

As I recently mentioned, I don’t give other people the ability to offend me.

Eleanor Roosevelt make this concept easily understandable with her famous quote: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

So for the record, there’s a good chance that if I were wrong, I wouldn’t know it.

The Blog Sniper (or, The Classic Case of the Compliment Intertwined with Condescending Criticism)

Um… thanks?

I’m convinced there are certain people in the world who truly can not (or will not) simply compliment another person- they feel they are doing the person a favor by also incorporating some sort of condescending criticism which picks at a minor detail to negate the positive vibes of the compliment itself.  Sort of like the way certain people can not (or will not) truly apologize, by saying something lame like this: “Well if I did something to hurt your feelings I’m sorry…”  That kind of apology translates as “I’m sorry you’re such a baby and sorry that you’re trying to make me look like the bad guy.”

Just last week when I published What Not to Say If You Want People to Like You 101, one of the points I touched on was “Knowing How to Actually Compliment Someone”.  Then ironically yesterday a random stranger acted out exactly what I had just mocked a few days before.  Click here (healthnutshell: Ketchup Vs. Mustard) to read a post I wrote which contrasts the types of food that ketchup and mustard are generally paired with.

In case you didn’t click on the link and haven’t read the comment I’m referring to, here it is again: Bahaha… you make a good point, but I doubt that by avoiding ketchup, you have succeeded in eating healthily. XD This is good stuff to know, but I also feel that it is a little fanatical. Thanks for the information, though!”

Here’s a breakdown of that comment:

“Bahaha”- A condescending laugh which translates as “that’s ridiculous”.

“You make a good point.”- An honest compliment.

“But I doubt that by avoiding ketchup, you have succeeded in eating healthily.” – A correction of my quirky lifestyle.  Totally missing the point, since I didn’t write the post in a tone of absolutes: “Because ketchup, in most cases, is paired with unhealthy foods that are either processed or fried.” Throughout the post I downgrade ketchup, yes, but I never say I refuse to eat it or that I don’t ever eat it.  Nor did I say that I am trying to eat healthy by simply avoiding ketchup.  Instead, I said: “So my general rule of thumb is, I stay away from foods that are enhanced by ketchup.”

“XD”- A slang symbol meaning “big smile”, an attempt to lighten the mood back.

“This is good stuff to know…” Another compliment.

“But I also feel it is a little fanatical.” – A call to put me on the defense.  Really?  I’m a fanatic just because I made an observation that typically ketchup is a condiment for less healthy foods, namely processed and fried?

“Thanks for the information…”– A expression of gratefulness.

“…though.”- In other words, “Thanks for the info, despite how laughable most of it was.”

Looking through each line of the comment, it is interesting the way this reader used the pattern “negative, positive, negative, positive…”  In fact, this may be the most perfect example I’ve ever seen of the classic case of the compliment intertwined with criticism.  That takes talent.

I literally laughed out loud when I read the comment.  Because it’s so tacky.  I think, “Make up your mind, either insult me, or compliment me, but don’t do both at the same time.  Commit.”  I totally respect someone’s opinion if they truly disagree with mine and don’t have a subtle motive to undermine my efforts.  But they have to be cool about it.  Etiquette still exists.

Otherwise, like in this case, it just becomes a joke to me.

But it’s evident from that comment that the person probably makes a daily habit of correcting everyone else, likely with a sarcastic tone, in an subconscious effort to feel in control.  Similar to the case of Some People Like Being Offended and/or Taking Advantage…

Be excellent to each other.

This event also reminds me of an excerpt of Christian Lander’s book, Stuff White People Like.  He is explaining that some white people let a little bit of positive feedback go to their heads too easily and that it eventually can get out of hand.  Therefore, he gives this advice to prevent that from happening:

“Do not dole out your praise like pinata candy… it is best to tease them with little bits of praise, balanced with a few barbs: ‘I have to hand it to you for putting KRS-One on that party mix.  I mean, you went with a pretty well-known song, but still, good job'”.

It’s just funny that in the Internet world it’s somehow more acceptable to go around criticizing people for the sake of trying to sound smarter than someone else who was creative enough to invent.  But I guess with the wave of online writers come just as many online critics.  And my guess is that the critics aren’t themselves inventing any original content- just looking to start a sophisticated food fight about ketchup and mustard.

I say let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”.  And when possible, find ways to truly compliment people, not find perceived fault in their creativity.  There’s not enough of sincere complimenting going on in the world.  Especially when “compliments intertwined with condescending criticism” are so popular.

Sammy sings praises, not pious put-downs.

What Not to Say If You Want People to Like You 101

Exploring the unspoken rules of conversation.


As an avid fan of clear communication and healthy human relationships, I have made myself overaware of the common courtesies of speaking in North American culture.  The problem with being so sensitive to the unwritten rules is that it can be much easier to become annoyed when other people break these rules.  Yet still, these rules exist.  Until now, they have remained invisible- but it’s time for a review of what we already know and hopefully live by.

Knowing when not to talk to a person. It’s not so much a “not before I’ve had my coffee” situation, as it is that many people (even if they are indeed “morning people”) do not enjoy engaging in conversation for the first hour of the day- especially if it involves hearing petty stories involving pet problems or car trouble.  Also, if a person seems quiet like they may be upset or stressed, do not say “Well, what’s wrong with you?!”  Instead, politely ask them if they want to talk about it.  If they say no, then say, “I’m here if you need me” and don’t talk to them until they talk to you.

Knowing what not to say. Refrain from pointing out obvious cosmetic flaws: recent weight gain (this includes pregnancy), hair loss, acne, scars.  The person may not ever forget your comment if it involves any topic like those.  They may never refer to you as a “nice person” again after that- but instead, you’ll be forever engrained on their “rude” list.

Knowing how to have an opinion yet not preach.  Many people are into healthy lifestyles these days, being much more aware of organic eating.  When asked by someone about your own lifestyle choices, simply answer their questions.  Only continue the conversation from there if they sincerely show interest.  Do not debate with them or become their “food judge” by saying, “Wow, you’re actually gonna eat all those carbs?” as they walk by with a big bowl of spaghetti.

Knowing how to be positive. No one likes a whiner.  While the poor economy and the Gulf Oil Spill Crisis are common knowledge and therefore make easy topics, avoid initiating a conversation about them.  Look for ways to “make a person’s day” by what you say instead of simply adding to the noise.  You’ll stand out, in a good way.  Needless to say, for more reasons that one, please never get caught saying, “I got a case of the Mondays!”

Knowing how to actually compliment someone. Make sure a compliment is truly a compliment.  If there is a casual criticism thrown in there, it voids out the positive vibes.  Like this: “I really like that purple shirt you’re wearing, even if it makes your skin look a little pale.”  Not cool.

These starters are only the tip of the iceberg.  But they are real reasons why some people are “good with people” and others aren’t.  Either way, good communication is a learned skill- it’s just that some people are more observant than others.

Unsolicited Advice is Like Fruitcake

Like fruitcake, it’s a popular gift.  And like fruitcake, it’s usually not received with sincere grattitude.

Yesterday I read someone’s facebook status update saying they are “sick and tired of getting unsolicited advice about how to raise my kids”.  A flood of comments followed from people who agreed, along with several “likes this”.  Good call.

Because there is actually a difference between constructive criticism and unsolicited advice- the “unsolicited” part.  And of course I’m not referring to family or close friends- it’s their job to give you unsolicited advice, because they’re more apt to “get through” to you in their approach, as well as knowing you well enough to give relevant advice.

And “relevant” is an important word.  Because part of the reason unsolicited advice is so obnoxious is that it’s often irrelevant to to us.

There are many times in my life where I really want someone’s advice.  So I ask for it, specifically from the people who I believe have the most intuition and wisdom on the subject.  The irony of receiving unsolicited advice is that the people most likely and eager to give it are often the ones who I would never ask anyway.

Which means sometimes I have to stay strong to resist from giving others advice when they haven’t asked for it, lest I be “that guy”.

It all comes down to a social cue that many people feel is disregarded- like their personal life is being intruded upon when someone gives me advice they didn’t ask for.  Because giving advice (warranted or not) is a form of giving criticism.  And when it comes to receiving criticism, most people aren’t truly that open to it- unless they are directly asking a specific trusted individual for it.

Granted, there are times when people put themselves in a situation that invites advice, indirectly.  Any kind of public facebook message will do the trick.  Anything I write about on my site is always open to criticism and advice; that’s why I allow comments.  I like hearing others’ perspectives on raising a kid and I welcome comments on my “dad from day one series”.  That’s intended as a shared experience.

But it’s those people in our “outer circles” that tend to be the key offenders.  The ones most likely to bring to your attention that you’ve gained some weight, got a big zit on your forehead, are starting to lose your hair,  or announce in front of everyone that you appear to be in a bad mood.  These people obviously don’t intend to offend us; they honestly mean well.

It’s just that no one taught them basic social behavior lessons.  And the thing is, they’ll probably never get a clue.  So what do I do when I get unsolicited advice from a person who isn’t too keen on social clues?  Give ‘em a half-sincere smile, shake my head “yes”, and change the subject.

And I’ve also noticed that these same people so eager to help us are often the most likely to go into details about their personal life, telling everyone stories that no one asked to hear.  They are eager to “help” us because they need help themselves.

I guess ultimately, being given uninvited advice is in a way like someone telling you who to be.  And for those of us who definitely know who we are, it’s if nothing else, plain annoying, to be told we are going to become like someone else who lives their own life by a different code.

There’s something that keeps us from wanting someone else to be able to figure us out.  It’s accurate to say that there’s nothing truly new under the sun.  But still we thrive on the freedom to live life as an individual, not based on both the idiots and geniuses who have done this thing before us.

P.S.  By the way, in my opening I had to use fruitcake as a universal example that most people would relate to- when in fact, I am actually a big fan of fruitcake.