Black and white portrait of Ray Dalio: Narrator and Creator of Life Principles

Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life.

Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, cites principles as his key to success.

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Think about whether you are playing the role of a teacher, a student, or a peer . . .

. . . and whether you should be teaching, asking questions, or debating. Too often people flail in their disagreements because they either don't know or don't think about how they should engage effectively; they just blurt out whatever they think and argue. While everyone has the right and obligation to make sense of everything, basic rules for engagement should be followed. Those rules and how you should follow them depend on your relative believabilities. For example, it would not be effective for the person who knows less to tell the person who knows more how something should be done. It's important to get the balance between your assertiveness and your open-mindedness right, based on your relative levels of understanding of the subject.

Think about whether the person you're disagreeing with is more or less believable than you. If you are less believable, you are more of a student and should be more open-minded, primarily asking questions in order to understand the logic of the person who probably knows more. If you're more believable, your role is more of a teacher, primarily conveying your understanding and answering questions. And if you are approximate peers, you should have a thoughtful exchange as equals. When there is a disagreement about who is more believable, be reasonable and work it through. In cases when you can't do this alone effectively, seek out the help of an agreed-upon third party.

In all cases, try to see things through the other person's eyes so that you can obtain understanding. All parties should remember that the purpose of debate is to get at truth, not to prove that someone is right or wrong, and that each party should be willing to change their mind based on the logic and evidence.

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