We’re good at providing our best reasons for an argument. If asked, we can all whip up a PowerPoint deck showcasing all of the reasons we’re right. Easy.
In fact, we’re so good that sometimes we need to be reminded of this follow up question: “what’s the best reason for you to be wrong?”
Think of the question as a dual-purpose educational multiplier and baloney detection kit.
If there’s an information gap – where you know something far better than I do, answering this question can help to leapfrog my understanding forward. You’ll outline the pros, the cons and a counterargument to help me see the nuance in your conclusion. This can be hugely valuable for someone with a very slight understanding of a complex matter.
If I’m “full of it,” then asking me this question will make my certainty look silly. “Because I said so,” and other one-sided explanations will fall apart unless something is clearly a first principle (meaning it can work for “gravity” but not for “babies are shaped like footballs so primitive men could spread their genes by punting them”).
The goal isn’t to make anyone look bad. Rather, it’s to help provide a bridge across the information gap so the person who is crossing it can survey more of the landscape. Oh, and if they’ve gone Wiley Coyote off of the cliff without noticing, you can think of asking the question as handing them the “help!” sign and pointing down before you roadrunner yourself away from them.
Either way, the “what’s the best reason for you to be wrong” question serves as an essential tool to either A. make you smarter or B. show you who to avoid. Put it to good use.