In defense of being confidently wrong

I might say, "my mental model of this is...", a friend might say, "it's my rising sign"

But neither of us puts the stake in the ground with an unabashed, simple and clear, "Yes."

— @HuanWin

"My mental model is", "it would seem it's good to", "the prudent option would be", "I probably want", etc, are all ways to put out a thought you have — a thought you might think is right — without identifying with it.

And some people, including me until recently, are doing it continuously. Never phrasing anything in such a way that they can catch themselves later: "oh huh, I was clearly wrong". Example:

— My mental model is that [a piece of software] behaves like X.
— Actually it doesn't.
— Oh, okay.

Technically I was wrong, but practically it doesn't feel the same way. When I prefix everything with "my mental model is", I am never wrong, only my mental models are. And it feels like "nothing bad with having a wrong mental model, a mental model is just something that happens to me".

There are feelings — of a) fully believing something and b) realizing you were 100% wrong — that you can entirely avoid experiencing by adopting a "seems"-heavy talking style. Even an innocent "I think" can do it, sometimes.

And you can go like this for years.

Especially if you're e.g. a consultant (I am a consultant), where the pressure to not be caught being confidently wrong is higher.

The good thing about being confidently wrong is — if I commit to an opinion, I start thinking "but what if I'm wrong" in background. Maybe I'll arrive at something good this way. If I only say "it seems that X", I never do that.

So, I started phrasing things without "it seems" — and currently I am getting mileage out of being confidently wrong. But not enough. I want to be confidently wrong more often.