We’re obsessed with hierarchies.

We see thing A and thing B and instinctively wonder which comes first. It’s why kids argue about whose dad is stronger and fans about whether Batman or Iron Man is smarter. (For the record, the answer is always Batman.)

Our minds are meaning-making machines—which means we will sometimes impose some kind of order where none is immediately apparent. And that’s not bad in itself—hierarchies have their uses. But can’t we do better than “My dad can beat yours!” The answer lies in the questions we ask.

Strengths versus superiority

Asking “Which is best?” or “Which is good or bad” sets us up to dismiss whatever falls under “worse” or “bad”. It narrows our field of vision, leads us to a dead-end.

Imagine a different question that opens new doors:

”What is this strong at? Where’s it weak?”

It’s moving from false dichotomies and imposed hierarchies to creating space for nuance and engaging with curiousity.

It looks like asking where Iron Man has unique strengths (building things) or weaknesses (a tendency to arrogance).

It might look like thinking of yourself, not merely as “creative” or “uncreative”, but in terms of, “Where’s my creativity stronger?”

It expands our field of vision.

The next time you’re tempted to say something is good or bad, don’t stop there. Finish it: Good for what? Bad at what?

Don’t let “superiority” blind you to strengths.

Photo by Edvard Alexander Rølvaag on Unsplash

Published by Doc Ayomide

I’m a medical doctor with specialty training in psychiatry, and I love thinking and writing about what it means to be human.

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