Take just a moment to reflect upon a few of your relationships. Now, ask yourself,"How often does the 'I'm right, you're wrong' scenario come into play in my day-to-day interactions?" Are you surprised by the answer? I know I was.
It’s amazing how in the midst of fairly mundane conversations I would find myself jumping right into proving, correcting, and instructing in order to maintain my “reputation” and image as a leader and advisor.
Believe it or not, the majority of us regularly feel (whether consciously or unconsciously) the need to be right. Actually, not only to be right, but to prove the other person wrong. Whether in face-to-face interactions, on the phone, or in emails; it can be challenging to keep our communication positive and productive.
Our ego is the culprit here. It wants to feel safe and in control. Even when we have the sense that we could be wrong, it reacts by causing us to feel agitated and frightened. We have the idea that someone has to be the loser, and it may as well be them. This can lead to mistrust, conflict and competition in our relationships; all of which are fear-based emotions. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
As you move through your day, take a little time to ask yourself about your motivations for engaging in those 'win-lose' conversations? What could happen if you sometimes let go of the constant need to be right?
We have a choice to approach others not from the harsh standpoint of black and white or right and wrong; but from the more relaxed perspective of respecting differences. Rather than looking at communication and interaction as a win-lose proposition, perhaps it can be approached from a win-win outlook. You might ask, “How can we both get some of what we want to satisfy our needs and ease our ego while maintaining a positive relationship?”
As with any interaction, your response is the only thing over which you have power and control. Using phrases like the ones below open up the possibilities of engaging in non-combative dialogue, all without giving up your dignity or having to bite your tongue. Here are some examples:
Hmmm…that’s an interesting option.
Now, that’s a thought.
I appreciate your opinion. Or, I appreciate your perspective.
I’ve never looked at it that way before.
I hear what you’re saying.
I can see where you’re coming from.
Hey, you could be right.
Notice that none of these responses “give up” your thoughts or opinions. They simply leave room for the possibility of an answer or perspective other than your own.
Below are some questions to consider and journal about if you feel so inclined:
- What is threatening to me about not being right?
- How does my need to be right affect those around me?
- How do I feel when I’m wrong? What are the emotions that come up?
- What was it like to be right and wrong when I was growing up? What did 'being right' get me? What were the consequences of 'being wrong'?
- How does this dynamic occur in my adult life?
- Would I rather be right or happy?
If you can see your way to let go of your need to be right, you will begin to foster more conscious, open and healthier relationships. Plus, it has the upside of allowing another person to feel seen, heard, and understood. And, who doesn’t want that?