You Can't Fix Stupid! (Or, Can You?)

Non-Threatening Fixes to the Misinformed, Misguided, or Misled!

Contrary to what you've heard...

  • people living in the Middle Ages believed the world to be round, not flat.
  • a mouse has more neck bones than a giraffe.
  • rain does not fall in the shape of a teardrop, but in a circle.
  • the first animal in space was not a monkey, but a dog named Laika.
  • snakes are not charmed by the sound of an instrument but the movement of it.
  • the first invention to break the sound barrier was a whip, not a jet.
  • most sailors and pirates in eighteenth century sea battles did not die from wounds suffered in hand-to-hand combat, but from infected splinters.
  • more tigers live in the United States more than any other country in the world.
  • the driest place on Earth is not in the Sahara Desert but in Antarctica.

Surprised that what you thought you knew, or were told, or read, was not the truth? (Google it!) We're swimming in misinformation, misunderstanding, and misdirection. And sometimes you are called to fix the stupidity.


Leaders have to do it.


Moms and dads, too.


Friends have to address it at times.


Journalists, teachers, mentors, employers, and pastors deal with the same conundrum in their work.


How do you tell people they don't know what they think they know?


The answer is easy: With creative wisdom.


No one likes to discover they're wrong, misled, or duped. But as embarrassing and eye-opening as the truth may be, once on the other side of their pride, most people are happy to know the truth.


But how do you correct their thinking without offending them?


You may be shocked that someone could actually be so misguided, misinformed, or misled to believe something "so stupid." However, communicating your dismay will never fix the problem.


An effective communicator at home, in the office, or in public, knows how to fix the problem without ruining the relationship.


So how do we go stupid?


We repeat what we think, hear, or see. And therein lies the problem. Just because you think it doesn't mean it's true. Just because you heard it doesn't mean it is correct. And you can't always believe everything you see. Plus, today's socially interactive and media driven culture is a factory of both brilliance and stupidity...and it's hard to know the truth at times.


Here are nine ways people are misled and where truth suffers:


Artistic Interpretation


So how do we fix stupid?


Relate to their misunderstanding and then gently move them to correct understanding.  This is done through empathizing, affirming, correcting, and encouraging.


The Fixing Stupid Method:


Empathize - I can understand why you could think this way.

Affirm - I too, have thought/felt this way.

Correct - But here is something I have learned that helped me and I know it will you.

Encourage - Now that you know this, you will be more knowledgeable and powerful.


Let's apply the Fixing Stupid Method to each of the nine ways most people are misguided. I've given you the category, what you might be thinking, and a creative fix you can use: 


Out of Context: "I conclude this because of a story I was told." (The world is flat)


Yea, but you were told wrong.  You received only part of the story.  And that incorrect tidbit continued to be told over and over until it is taken as fact. You've based your conclusion on something taken out of context.


Try this fix:


I totally understand why you might think this. In fact, I did too . . . until I heard the whole story.  Now I'm happy to present the full picture, and I think you'll agree that this changes everything!  Let's change it and stay true to the true story.


Appearance: "I conclude this just because of the way it looks" (Giraffes and mice)


Yea, but well, looks are deceiving.  You've based your conclusion solely on appearances only, and that will get you in trouble.


Try this fix:


I can see by the appearance how you would come to your conclusion.  There is more than meets the eye here and I want you to get the true picture about what you are seeing.  Let's go beneath the surface and examine it more closely because I want you to see it correctly.


Media: "I conclude this because of what I see in news media." (First animal in space)


Yea, well, film clips and documentary montages don't always tell the whole truth. You've based your conclusion on what makes a good story at the expense of the true story.


Try this fix:


I understand how that which you’ve seen comes across as fact, but here are the real facts. The facts are the facts, and now you are truly in the know! And accurate knowledge is real power.


Art: "I conclude this because of artists' depictions." (Shape of a raindrop)                                   


Yea, well, that's what artists do - they take license with reality and create something a bit more inspirational.  You've based your conclusion on imagination instead of information.


Try this fix:


Imagination is inspirational, but reality can be beautiful, too.  Let’s start with the facts and then if we want to take a little creative license, we can. There are many ways to present something, but let’s base it on the truth.


Film/Television: "I conclude this because it is what I see in film and television." (Snake charmer)


Yea, well, you can’t believe everything you see on the silver screen or on television. If movies presented life just as it really was, you may not pay to see them. Music, sound effects, special effects, all alters the real story.


You’ve based your conclusion on a bigger than life presentation.


Try this fix:


Jumping into a world of imagination is entertaining. However, though we love to be entertained, we must understand it for what it is . . . just entertainment. Let me tell you how it really works and you will understand why a little entertainment value may have been added.


Ignorance: "I conclude this because, well, I just thought . . . " (The whip)


Yea, well, that’s what you get for thinking. No, really, how in the world are we to know everything? It is totally reasonable to collect snapshots of information along life’s way and come to an uneducated conclusion.


Try this fix:


I am always surprised when I discover something I assumed was wrong. I am glad I found out because I don't want to appear out of touch. Facts are facts, and these facts are a lot more interesting that what you could have imagined.


Sensationalism: "I conclude this because the fiction I've read/seen must be based on fact." (Death of sailors and pirates)


Yea, well, you can’t believe everything you read. Once again, storytelling takes a bit of creative license – even historical fiction. Though something seems like a historical account, it may miss the mark.  Your conclusion is based on how the real thing was sensationalized.


Try this fix:


Research tells us otherwise. And, just to know the accurate information behind the story shouldn’t lessen the impact of its meaning, but actually give you an edge to the story few others will know!


Change/Progress: "I conclude this because this is what I have been taught." (Tigers)


Yea, well, things change. The world is a different place now.  You’ve based your conclusion on old data.


Try this fix:


I believe you will be excited to know the newest data on this subject. Change captivates all of us, and so I am sure you will want to know the latest and greatest about this subject.  Fascinating information, right?


Assumption: "I conclude this because it just seems logical to me." (Driest place on Earth) 


Yea, well, just because it seems logical, doesn’t mean you should miss the truth. Your conclusion is based on what seems reasonable, but the facts may surprise you.


Try this fix:


Most of our conclusions are based on the parade of information processed in our brains throughout life. And even though we may not be able to recall information on one particular subject, our natural instinct is to come to a conclusion based on what seems logical.  Here is the real answer and look what it has done for you already . . . you’ve become smarter and better informed.


Fixing stupid may sound a little harsh.


Fixing the misguided might be a better way to put it.


But if you're addressing a child, a spouse, a student, an employee, a team member, or a member of the public, understanding how to gracefully correct misinformation is a productive way to move one to truth without attacking and embarrassing the misguided.


Can you fix stupid?


I don't know.


But you can graciously try.

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