How to Speak with Authority and Avoid Looking Like a Fool

A good strategy for learning to speak with authority:

  1. Don't argue about things you know little about, that you haven't thought about, or that you have no opinion on. Chances of being wrong on something you haven't thought about or read up on: 80%+. So simply by shutting up about topics you know nothing about, you already weed out a large number of argument that you'd lose.
  2. People don't remember all the times you didn't argue. They mostly remember all the times you did argue and were wrong.
  3. You'll probably start out being 50/50 right on any given opinion that you do feel comfortable voicing for the first time. But when someone makes a persuasive argument that I'm wrong, I change my mind and drop it. Immediately. The longer you press a losing argument, the more people remember that you're an idiot.
  4. Which means that most of the time, I'm repeating arguments I've had before. And wasn't persuaded that I'm wrong. Which increases the odds that I'm right on the matter.
  5. Repeat the cycle enough, and you end up with a whole bag full of arguments that are increasingly bullet proof. Makes you seem like somewhat of an oracle.

I like to argue a lot and press points hard because every argument is an opportunity to weed out my own bad thinking. It's not about wanting to be right all the time; it's about wanting to be wrong less often.

The problem is, most people don't realise that to be right, you have to be wrong (or stay silent & listen) just as often, and that it's a sign of strength (not weakness) to change your mind in the face of evidence. So they don't follow steps 1, 2 and 3. Being loudly and frequently wrong is a sure-fire way to lose the respect of people.

Firm opinions, loosely held.