The Ten Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make and How to Avoid Them by Arthur Freeman and Rose DeWolf
At best, cognitive therapy
emphasizes helping individuals think clearly and accurately, reducing harmful emotions. Once the mind thinks better, cognitivists
claim better actions, perhaps, follow.
I can think of a million worse mistakes
than those offered in The Ten Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make, but the authors suggest:
Believing your press agent.
Believing your critics.
Replacing these automatic thoughts with better thoughts, the authors argue, leads to better actions. Once
you get flooded with harmful emotions, reasoning often stops and
fighting, running or freezing often results.
Instead of assuming the worst in
everyday interactions, stick to the more charitable meanings of what others
say and do. Ask others what they mean. Avoid analyzing every sentence for
some secret intention. If you feel intimidated or whatever, look at the
situation from another perspective.
If others are hurt or bewildered by messages you send, it is probably not because of stupidity.
Clear up or clean up your act or both. Subtext is for movies. A
friendly or professional demeanor is more appropriate for many everyday
interactions. Do not fret about insults. And for goodness sake, avoid responding to criticism by ignoring,
resenting, freezing, getting hostile or discouraging yourself. Carefully pick
Keep improving yourself.
Do not assume
a handful of successes means you will live happily ever after or that they make
you a good person. Do not believe everything your
parents say, and do not believe everything flatterers say. Avoid
decisions based on popularity or flattery.
Grant yourself the respect all
individuals deserve. Do not see yourself as an imposter or gargoyle
dropped into a scene.
Do jobs as well as the situation
demands. Avoid perfectionism. Perfectionism, they write, annoys and
wastes time on meager improvements that do not outweigh costs.
Compare your actions to performance
standards, not to other individuals.
The worst part of this book criticizes the word should, perhaps because the word should causes anxiety. The solution to should anxiety is to do right things, not get rid of shoulds. Getting rid of the word genocide does not change facts about genocide. The authors do not offer much help in changing behavior other than changing thoughts. Environmental reforms are missing. For practice, the authors suggest techniques--getting “mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it.” and practicing with video cameras. Worth browsing.
—J.T. Fournier, last updated July 7, 2009