We all do it. Your friend says, “Can you believe that we haven’t seen Bob in 4 weeks?” Contemplating this, your brain calculates that really it’s only been 3 weeks and 5 days, so rather than simply agreeing with the over all point your friend was making –“Hey, it’s been a long time” — you correct him and establish that it hasn’t been 4 weeks, it’s only been 3 weeks and 5 days (apparently those 2 days make the difference between a long time and not a long time).
Why do we do this? I think it stems in part from how we process information that’s given to us. When someone makes factual statements, our brains naturally ask whether or not that statement is true. If we find some way to discriminate its veracity, we mention it, often aloud, much to the chagrin of all who have to listen.
Occasionally though, this is the beginning of a quarrel, typically one which has no purpose, except to try to prove the rightness of our own minds. I have consciously tried to not do this after experiencing this second hand when I was a teenager (yet still I find myself, much to my horror, still slipping into this very thing).
My family was at a restaurant on a cold winter night in Colorado. The waitress said, “It’s really cold outside. The thermometer said it was below zero”. Now, it was cold, and was probably below freezing, but not below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. After her statements, all of our brains go to work — Zero degrees, must have been zero degrees Celsius. My brother and my dad both, thinking out loud, mention that it must have been Celsius, but the waitress says she doesn’t think so.
How sweet it would be, if at this point, the next line was, “Hmmm, well, it is really cold outside. I’d like a cup of coffee”, but alas, we have now crossed over into a need to find absolute truth and for everyone to see it our way. What commenced was a near argument with the waitress which edified no one – until the waitress finally took the peaceful way out”
This was the point in time where I decided that, as much as possible, unless the fact was crucial to an understanding, it’s way better to let these things slide. Now if only I could remember this more often for myself.
For those who love to correct, let me know if you think my position is in error (just comment below).