13 Uncommon Tips For Balancing Your Yin Yang
Yang means assertive, firm, at the extreme, jerky. Yin means accommodating, gentle, at the extreme, wimpy. Here are some tips for avoiding both extremes:
- Yes, you too can be a jerk: It’s within every human’s power to be one no matter what values or formulas you live by. No one is exempt.
- Disappointing people doesn’t make you a jerk: Despite what you’ve heard, we can’t solve everything with kindness in part because being kind to some unavoidably disappoints others.
- Don’t shoot “Unfair!” from the hip: By the same token, your disappointment doesn’t mean others are jerks. We all notice what’s unfair to us. That makes us motivated lawyers, not neutral judges of what’s fair.
- Empathize globally: Be able to walk a mile in anyone’s shoes. Imagine being them. Be able to make the best possible case for what they want.
- Sympathize selectively: Walking a mile in someone’s shoes shouldn’t decide things in their favor. You need to be able to empathize completely with someone and then disappoint the hell out of them if you have to.
- Get outside your in-group: Countervail against the natural tendency to empathize and sympathize locally. Expanding beyond the local is hard work. It sometimes means disappointing those closest to you.
- Care what reality “thinks”: In every argument, the elephant in the room is reality itself, that which doesn’t change despite opinion. Keep that elephant in mind and argue on its behalf. Arguments aren’t won at their conclusion but later. Time really tells. Only with hindsight can we see who, if anyone, was really right. Don’t fight to win arguments but to win a better tomorrow.
- Distinguish two kinds of good: Which food is good, bacon or kale? Bacon if good means good tasting; kale, if good means good for us in the long run. Which kind of story, explanation or prediction is good? Again, there’s good tasting and good for us. Don’t assume that if a story tastes good it’s good for you.
- Employ reason even if it makes others think you’re being unreasonable:Employ the power of neutral, rational, practical thinking, and know its limits. Be logical. Logic is not buzzkill, it’s the key to sustainable buzz, the best we’ve got for figuring out how to maximize wellbeing. Wonder hard about the difference between being rational and rationalizing, being moral and moralizing, reasoning and being reasonable (hint: the latter in each of these pairings are ways of pretending that the good tasting story is the good for us story, as in “the rational, moral, reasonable thing is to not disappoint me and give me what I want.” This is jerk behavior. Avoid it.)
- Recognize that rationality isn’t a sure-fire formula: Rationality is like math and statistics applied to language. It’s a collection of formulas for drawing conclusions, but formulas have variables, and what we pop into those variables makes a huge difference to the conclusions drawn. Anyone who implies that their conclusions are the inescapable result of applying the formulas doesn’t understand this about rationality. Life is not a crossword puzzle with one right answer. Pretending it is, is symptomatic of rationalizing.
- Factor luck in: The best tasting stories ignore chance as though life were a game of skill not luck. For example, “I created all of my success, and if you’re not as successful as me, that’s because you lack my skill,” or “I know exactly what will work because I’ve got the formula for success.” Nothing makes us jerks quite as readily as these good tasting stories about how we’ve got it all figured out. You can hear it in folks who have an answer for everything, folks who never apologize because they’re never wrong. Classic jerk behavior.
- Embrace certain bets (even though that’s an oxymoron): Since a lot of life’s success is luck some people err toward surrender to it. But life is a game of luck and skill. Use your skills to place better bets, rational bets on what’s good for you long term. Place them with confidence but no matter how confident you are in your bets, be still more confident they are bets.
- Work to spin and unspin even-handedly: We tend to dress up our arguments to make them as sexy and appealing as possible, and dress down opponent’s arguments to make them as dubious and unappealing as possible. And the better we get at rhetoric and critical thinking, the more we tend to apply them in this self-serving manner without even knowing that we do. Knowing that we do, counter the tendency, play your own devils advocate, and empathizing with opponents be able to make a good case for their even if you don’t end up supporting them.