Why You Should Be Gentle Correcting Naive People

The intellect of those you meet in life will vary.

You’ll meet some people who know more than you in specific facets of life, and you’ll meet those who just can’t get on the same page. These instances are typically not of concern in everyday life. However, when there are consequences to a person’s naivety, you’ll need to correct them in order to remain unaffected yourself.

This article does not aim to discourage you from presenting corrections to people’s incorrect ideas. Rather, it hopes to make you think about what makes people want to learn.

There are Often Risks Involved

You’ll meet people who present ideas which are damaged by either time or ignorance, and haven’t yet been streamlined with more knowledge. The act of identifying them to be incorrect inherently means that you’d know more about the topic at hand. Prior to not thinking twice about submitting a correction to their thoughts, there may be reasons for perhaps allowing their incorrect ideas to live for just a while.

If you find yourself potentially being affected by the naivety of another, you will need to correct their incompetence for your own sake as well as theirs. People do not enjoy being labelled as wrong however, and the fact that their lack of knowledge has the possibility of affecting you can make you reactive in your approach.

Examples of instances when those around you are dangerously naive involve working together on an issue at work, collaborating on a business venture, or merely planning for a dangerous mountain-top hike. Even more danger can be introduced to unneeded reactions from yourself to their mistakes, and from them to your corrections.

Resolving issues, especially with the naive, is important to do without introducing additional risk.

The risk of correcting someone in an unfavorable way will only worsen any issues which were birthed due to their initial mistakes. People can become vengeful, upset, and malicious in the face of those correcting them. They can hold onto negative associations for a long time, and any status you gain by vehemently correcting them may not be worth it.

No Fault of The Naive Person

Always trek the realm of naivety with the notion that the naive are not at fault. It is no fault of their own for not knowing the information that they need to know. Do not make your corrective actions seem like the person is lesser than you for not knowing whatever is it that they need to know. Always give them the benefit of the doubt and do not assume mistakes were made due to stupidity rather than mere underexposure. 

Letting people save face when things go awry will indirectly improve their work ethic in the long run. The subtle and gentle correction on your part will be accepted respectfully by those who you are teaching, and they will remember the instance of you letting them save face. Do not make it a priority to get people in trouble when you find them being naive to a particular fact of life. If you do, they will fear getting into trouble in the future and will become hesitant to let you in on their deeper line of thinking.

Allowing people to save face and gently teaching them what they need to know will increase their openness to you. You will be seen as a supportive person to lean against rather than an entity to fear. Always keep those who are uneducated about the matter at hand on your side, as your best interest is to be in the know about all potential weaknesses that they possess.

Their weaknesses can affect you in the long-term and being stern with those who aren’t on the same page will only distance them from you.

The Race Toward Specifics Can Be Demotivating

An important thing to consider prior to correcting someone is whether a correction is more important than their level of motivation in learning about the topic at hand.

A correction can serve as an act to get something right in the time being, while halting progress for the future. The analysis of whether someone’s bad idea will bring pain to yourself and others around them is a good place to start in determining whether you should intervene. Specifics exist in everything.

Specifics can be followed to the deepest levels of the universe you’re reading this in. Philosophers and scientists can debate the meaning of truth for hours on end due to the existence of specifics. The correction you present in the face of someone getting something wrong is itself, subject to correction by someone who has followed specifics down a further path.

You may think that specifics are good to follow and learn about; which is absolutely correct.

The paramount difference between forcing someone to learn the specifics and enticing them to do so, is what this article is about.

Explicit correction is a forceful measure for diving into the specifics of an idea or thought.

Teaching someone who has just bought their first axe that they need different axes for the different tasks they want to accomplish, is correct in the information that it presents but incorrect in the motivation that it maintains. That person may be proud of their first axe, and excited to begin caring for it, sharpening it, using it. They may look forward to waking up sore the next day after a day’s worth of chopping wood.

As they attempt to use one axe for different jobs, they’ll begin to realize that it may not be well suited for certain tasks. However, having hours of experience under their belt, they’d be likelier to continue on the journey about learning of different axes to accomplish different jobs. A correction prior to them developing a liking toward their first axe could serve to demotivate their interest levels in pursuing an interest of axes.

Remember, discovering things ourselves is much more fulfilling than being lectured at by others.

Lessons of Commonality: We’re All Naive at Some Point

Understanding those who missed important information can help you gain insight into what to expect from others. Some people may be more expressive with their lack of knowledge, while others may try to hide it under wraps. Being open and not condescending towards those who lack knowledge in your domain will allow others who are the same to come forward. You will be exposed to more potential issues, and will be able to prevent those issues beforehand more effectively.

Keep tabs on what most people find difficult about the domain in which you are comfortable. Learn what the weaknesses are of beginners in whatever you are doing, and be supportive to their learning. Do not try to get people in trouble when they do not know, as you will discourage learning. Be close to those who struggle, and you will serve to prevent any issues which may come about from their lack of insight.

Rather Than Presenting What’s at the End of the Rainbow, Point Them Toward It

By remaining quiet in the face of someone’s incorrect action or thought, we’re prone to regret allowing falsehood to exist in the world.

Is it moral to allow someone to be incorrect? What if their incorrect thought goes on a domino effect to cause a lot of damage? The goal of maintaining their motivation to learn about the topic at hand, as well as the goal of limiting regret of our own, are therefore the two guiding principles in this regard. These two guiding principles encourage one to not explicitly expose wrongfulness, but to guide people toward a place that will.

In the example about the axe above, you could simply guide a person who has expressed a sliver of interest in axes toward a website or book where you learned the knowledge you possess. Try not to simply present the knowledge you learned, but recommend sources and destinations where you’ve received it. Doing so will limit the regret you feel in allowing some falsehoods to live on, and do a good job of adding fuel to their motivation levels.

Establishing and maintaining a motivation for learning is the end goal of your interaction with people who’ve got things wrong.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.