Lessons from “How to Be Right” by James O’Brien

Earlier this year I read James O’Brien’s book “How to be Right…in a world gone wrong”.

Covering what are typically contentious and divisive topics: Brexit, Trump, immigration, feminism and LGBT+ to name a few; O’Brien explores the arguments of folk who have called his daytime LBC radio talk show and, in turn, he methodically pulls their views and rationale apart.

The book maintains an entertaining slant throughout whilst also balancing the jocular with deeply serious, sobering points. I enjoyed several laugh-out-loud moments, yet I was regularly faced with sadness and frustration as hollow, simplistic arguments and beliefs of callers to his show were effectively torn to pieces through O’Brien’s’ sharp questioning (even if James can, occasionally, sound like “an insufferable prig”/”dog with a bone” (his own words)).

What I learned and reflected on was the following:

  • Really, really listen to what people are saying
  • Explore with deep questioning where your own and others’ assumptions come from
  • Challenge one’s own and others’ beliefs vs. the evidence/facts out there
  • Don’t allow people to get off the hook or divert – persist in exploring and trying to understand the reasoning behind someone’s position or beliefs. Understanding why they believe something is arguably more important and revealing that knowing what they believe.
  • Remain respectful. If people have opinions which are baseless in fact/evidence, differ wildly from your own and/or which grate you to the core, recognise that it may not be them that’s “at fault” but more they may have been informed/misinformed/misled by others. We are all learning and growing. Equally, we are all different and it’s especially important in today’s world that these differences are allowed to exist.
  • Some (all?) of us, perhaps even ourselves from time to time, are prone to ignoring or explaining away facts/evidence/explanations if it doesn’t fit our desired narrative or world view.
  • Don’t go on national radio to talk about something unless you really know your stuff, otherwise you may well end up sounding like a wally – especially if a good interviewer is skilled and decent enough to get beneath convenient soundbites and lazy assumptions!

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