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How not to be wrong: The art of changing your mind by James O’Brien

Technically James O’Brien is a colleague, I mean we’ve never met, and we work in broadcast centres 200 miles apart but still, there’s every chance I could end doing a live hit on his show.

I’d say we’re politically aligned; I agree with a lot of what he has to say. I’m a listener to his show (and not because I have to be) and often wonder why on earth people have called in or agreed to an interview without having a fully researched and fact based argument, any kink or flaw in your argument and he will pick it up and dissect it……..but, that doesn’t mean he’s never been wrong…..despite seemingly having made a career in always being right.

I was also very curious about the story behind this book, the process of self-examination and changing, through therapy and you know, actually talking.

I’ve been on a similar journey (I hate that phrase but I’ve nothing better at this point) and like James, never in a million years thought I’d see the day I’d be trotting off to see a woman to talk about my feelings every week. I’m northern, I’m working class, I come from a looooooong line head buriers – this is not we do. We pull our socks up, crack on and remain stoic, always. 

At some point though, we all have to take a look at ourselves, something else I can’t believe I’m saying. That’s what this book is about how we talk to ourselves and crucially how it is okay to change our minds.

We live in a time where no-one wants to be wrong. Battle lines are drawn, no one wants to give an inch to the “other side”, no one wants to change their mind, it’s seen as a sign of weakness, it’s seen as giving in. It doesn’t matter what your background is – whether you’re like me or, as in James’ case, you’ve had a brutal, public school education where you learn to get your guard up quickly, we’re trained early on not to show weakness. 

But actually, always having your guard up, ready for a fight, isn’t the best way to be, examining why that is can actually change how we think about certain things. Is it experience, our background, our parents, or some kind of conscious or unconscious bias that has led to us having a certain world view? 

That’s what James O’Brien unpicks about himself here, it’s an incredibly personal take on where he’s changed his mind and what convinced him to do so. How he started to learn that being ready for an argument and always winning the argument, weren’t allowing him to be the husband and father he wanted to be. 

There’s revealing moments of vulnerability, especially around his school days and the vicious beatings from teachers, it looks at how trauma can lead to us protecting our emotions and egos.

It’s packed with conversations from his radio show and examples of how he’s changed his mind, whether that’s on tattoos, obesity, corporal punishment, or examining why people carry knives and looking at all sides of the trans argument to name a few.

There are parts that make uncomfortable reading, in the past he’s been horribly wrong but who hasn’t.

It’s an insightful, important read that will make you question why you think a certain way rather than just about what you think. It’ll get you to consider different arguments, something we’ve forgotten in the battle to be seen as being right and on the right side.

We don’t have to steadfastly stand by our long-held opinions, it’s the idea that if something or someone is really bothering you, asking yourself why that might be?

“I have finally learned that admitting to being wrong is infinitely more important than using skills and tricks and weapons and tools to look ‘right’, and that there is no point having a mind if you never change it.James O’brien

P.S talking about how he’d find himself discussing things in therapy he’d never imagined (I hear you).

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

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