Today, binary thinking is pervasive. Conservative or liberal, pro-choice or pro-life, you are either for it or against it. The list goes on and on, encompassing everything from societal problems to team sports, to the point where things are getting out of hand. After all, the question of whether to use a mask or get vaccinated against COVID-19 is still being discussed today. All of this ultimately has to do with the inclination for humans to think in binary terms. It has contaminated our society and resulted in several problems.
7 Ways to Avoid Binary Thinking
1. Try New Things
Going new places and attempting new activities are necessary if we are to ever get out of the destructive habit of binary thinking. We at least put ourselves in the position to encounter fresh ideas and viewpoints when we go out and live life, which is complicated and messy.
Take a course, pick up a language, discover a new passion, go on vacation, or simply act differently today than you did yesterday. Changing up our daily encounters is a part of changing our old binary thinking habits.
2. Meet New People
The same is true of socializing. You’re probably caught in a feedback cycle if everyone in your social media feed looks and thinks just like you. Because of the echo chamber you’ve constructed, you no longer feel challenged or compelled to consider other viewpoints.
By getting to know new people—from all cultures, races, religions, and backgrounds—you may escape binary thinking. But just meeting them isn’t sufficient. We must also be enquiring and receptive to their viewpoints.
3. Cultivate Curiosity
Ask a lot of questions and go into every contact with genuine curiosity, even if you disagree with the other person.
When I meet new people, I enjoy playing a game I like to call “Curious Detective.” I imagine that my duty is to learn everything I can about them rather than talking about myself. Either that, or I’ll play a game called “Hard-hitting Reporter” in which I pretend to be a journalist attempting to discover what motivates this individual. This encourages me to engage in conversation with real curiosity for the other person rather than using it as an occasion to brag.
Another way to think about this is that the more interested someone is in you, the more interested they will be in them. This makes it possible for a relationship to develop into something that may eventually affect your perspective.
4. Listen with an Open Mind
Additionally, it’s critical to slow down. Our first instincts are frequently instances of dichotomous thinking. Before we have all the facts necessary to genuinely obtain clarity, we have a tendency to make assumptions and hasty conclusions.
Using non-binary thought is a good way to slow down your responses. Before you leap to conclusions, take a moment to think things through. If you catch yourself mentally classifying things into broad groups, pause, and then attempt to see the bigger picture.
And pay attention. Keep your thoughts open rather than trying to fit new knowledge into the constrained categories you currently have. Allow new knowledge to be complex and confounding rather than neatly falling into the binary categories you’re used to.
5. Build Empathy
Perspective-taking, according to Brene Brown, entails hearing the truth as it is experienced by others and accepting it as the truth. This means that instead of trying to force them into your preconceived notions when you meet new people and try new things, you should listen for the truth in their experiences.
When we accept that someone else’s truth might not match ours yet still be real, we reintroduce ambiguity into our lives.
It increases empathy. According to Brown, “shame and judgment are incompatible with empathy. Understanding is necessary for being judgment-free. When we are most susceptible to experiencing shame, we tend to condemn those places. Real empathy results from respecting other people’s experiences and facts and being receptive to various viewpoints, as opposed to shutting down out of guilt or judgment.
It’s a good thing that not everyone thinks and feels the same way.
6. Don’t Fall for the Dunning-Kruger Effect
The Dunning-Kruger Effect occurs when you are overconfident in your knowledge of a subject when you actually know very little about it. People are less confident in their knowledge when they are ignorant about a subject. But as soon as they learn even a little, their confidence leaps.
Then, when people learn more, they get less confident as they understand that it’s more complicated than they first thought. Someone’s confidence eventually starts to steadily rise again as they begin to develop into an authority in a particular field.
Avoiding binary thinking requires understanding the Dunning-Kruger Effect. With the help of our smartphones, we may learn the fundamentals of any subject. This sets us up to have an overly inflated sense of confidence in how much we know.
Be modest and continue your education before boasting about how knowledgeable you are. Additionally, binary thinking should serve as a solid indicator for you that you lack true domain expertise and are merely generating assumptions and generalizations.
7. Embrace Uncertainty
Finally, if we wish to cease thinking in binary terms, we must constantly remind ourselves that the world is complex and that we don’t actually know as much as we sometimes believe. Even while it could make you feel anxious, this is a crucial conclusion to accept if you want to advance intellectually.