Do this, but…

Within groups of experts, they tend to agree with each other on best principles. Sometimes, however, there are exceptions. So when experts disagree, how do you find out which side to choose?

The example I’ll use in this post is cold-emailing, for the reason of it being one of the more hilariously trivial examples and also the one that inspired this post. There tend to be two equally-sized factions in the cold-email war: one, whom we’ll call the pro-emailers, believe that it is always a good opportunity to cold email someone, giving them a genuine note and being sure to always follow up to show that you care. The other side, anti-emailers, believe that cold emailing ultimately leads to more harm than good: no matter the intention, most of the time you will simply annoy a relatively important person. 

Now, there is nuance to this. Anti-emailers probably imagine a cold-emailer as an annoying spambot, and would give more lenience to someone with a personal touch. Pro-emailers, likewise, will always believe that a warm email is better than a cold email. But for the most part it seems like these really are two different ideologies, and worse, they’re two ideologies that refuse to interact with one another, thus making direct comparison more difficult.

With cold emails, and in other cases like it, there are two routes you can take. The first is by creating a natural filter. If you cold email everyone, you’re going to filter out the anti-emailers who will never respond to your messages. Of course, if you’re cold-emailing, you’re probably a pro-emailer and wouldn’t like to talk to an anti-emailer anyway. An anti-emailer might share and laugh at your email over Twitter (as they are prone to do), but this won’t matter because they’re sharing it with other anti-emailers. 

The second is to merge the two strategies together. This isn’t always possible for diametrically-opposed conflicts, but it is possible in the case of cold emailing. For example, you can cold email but not follow up. The follow up part seems to be the main pain point of anti-emailers, anyway. An example similar to this is in blaming, which I brought up in Faulty Mental Models. One side of people says that you should always take the blame, no excuses. Another side of people say that taking the blame is ultimately harmful, not helpful — particularly for larger mistakes. So, the merging of these two ideas is to take the blame in small cases, and for large cases sweep the blame under the rug (thus ensuring no one gets hurt). 

With these two ideas in mind, hopefully you see that even in expert conflict there’s a way to figure things out for yourself. Besides, most of the time what experts say won’t apply to your life anyway.

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