If You Want to be Smart, Don’t Surround Yourself With People Who Think Like You

The appetite for validation doesn’t encourage critical thinking

Thomas Oppong
4 min readAug 8, 2022


Photo: Felix Rostig on Unsplash

In this digital age, it’s easier than ever to hide in a digital echo chamber. We can filter out people who disagree with us by following like-minded people on social media or only reading news that confirms our pre-existing beliefs.

Or we can create an artificial environment that only exposes us to ideas we already agree with by spending time exclusively with like-minded friends, colleagues, and partners. In fact, research shows people tend to spend more time around people who agree with them.

“We learn more from people who challenge our thought process than those who affirm our conclusions,” says Adam Grant in his book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.

If you want to be smart, don’t surround yourself with people who think like you. Instead, seek out people who are smarter than you — people who think differently from you, challenge your assumptions and force you to reexamine your beliefs. You will become a more adaptable person who can better deal with changing situations and scenarios.

“A wise man has to always listen to the peers he surrounds around himself. That’s why you surround yourself with other smart people,” says Rza.

Smart people do not always have the correct answers — they’re willing to revise their assumptions when they find new information. Practical intelligence is less about knowing a lot of things and more about being open to learning from people smarter than you.

Embrace the discomfort of doubt

Don’t seek to affirm your beliefs and assumptions; evolve and challenge them.

Intellectually challenging friends or colleagues can stretch your thinking and keep you on your toes. You probably have a few less-intellectually challenging friends who think the same things as you and don’t challenge your thinking much. Expand your belief and knowledge sources to improve your critical thinking skills if you value their friendship.

Which kind of friend do you want to be? If you want to become smarter, don’t surround…



Thomas Oppong

Author | Habits, Philosophy & Psychology. As seen on Forbes, Inc. and Business Insider. For my popular essays, go here: https://thomasoppong.com