Hedge Words Affirm Creative, Imaginative Thinking

Mandy’s note piqued my interest so much, I started reading Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz. So far, I love it! (I hope to write more about it once I’ve finished, but I’m afraid I won’t because the whole book is underlined in red pencil and I wouldn’t know where to start.)

As someone who has been told they self-sabotage by using hedge words, I like this excerpt from Schulz that Mandy quotes in her post:

disarming, self-deprecating comments, (“this could be wrong, but…” “maybe I’m off the mark here…”)…are often criticized [as] overly timid and self-sabotaging. But I’m not sure that’s the whole story. Awareness of one’s own qualms, attention to contradiction, acceptance of the possibility of error: these strike me as signs of sophisticated thinking, far preferable in many contexts to the confident bulldozer of unmodified assertions.

It’s kind of strange when you think about it.

Why do I feel this need to qualify what I’m about to say with a phrase like, “Maybe I’m wrong here, but…” As if being wrong is, in the words of Kathryn Schulz, a rare, bizarre, and “inexplicable aberration in the natural state of things”.

And yet, as much as we all say “to err is human”, we don’t always act like we believe it. As Schulz says in the book:

A whole lot of us go through life assuming that we are basically right, basically all the time, about basically everything.

Which is why I appreciate a good hedge word now and then.

In fact, I don’t think it’s hedging. It’s an open affirmation, as Mandy notes, of one’s desire to learn and evolve (as opposed to a desire to affirm and validate one’s own beliefs).

I would love to see less certainty and more openness. Less “it is this” and more “perhaps it could be this, or that, or maybe even both!”

Give me somebody who is willing to say “Maybe I’m wrong”. Somebody who can creatively imagine new possibilities, rather than be stuck with zero imagination and say, “I know all there is, and there’s no way this can be.”