How many times have you gotten in an argument with someone, only to realize halfway through the spat that you made a mistake? How many times did you actually admit your mistake instead of barreling on, continuing to insist you were right to save face? How did you feel about yourself afterward? How do you think the other person felt about you?
As human beings, we seem to be biologically programmed with the need to be right. Some definitely have the program more ingrained than others, but I can’t imagine there are any of us reading this who don’t feel at least a bit uncomfortable when someone tells us we are wrong or brings up a different opinion.
Just take a look at Facebook these days. How many of your friends are dead set on being right about the recent state of politics (either that they were right in voting for Trump, or that he’s the bane of American existence)? How has this affected your opinion of them? In this current political climate, I think getting over the need to be right about everything is more important than ever.
What happens when we insist on being right all the time?
We become close-minded What happens to the way you think when you cannot let go of the need to be right? You stop listening to other people. Why? Because you don’t want to be convinced you’re wrong (or you think there’s no possibility that you’re wrong, so what good does it do to listen?). When you cannot consider the possibility that your opinion is not the only opinion, or that your way is not the only right way, you shut down. You build up walls of righteousness that are actually made up of fear. You stop learning and you stop growing.
We hurt those we love If you’re right all the time, what does that make other people in your life? Yep, it makes them wrong. How do you think that’s going to affect your closest relationships? Many people stuck in the trap of needing to be right don’t really stop to think about how their strong opinions are hurting others. They may convince themselves that they’re helping others see their mistakes or that others will thank them later. Unfortunately, even if it does turn out that we’re right, it usually results in hurt feelings and those you love feeling inadequate and unappreciated.
We sacrifice kindness and compassion Being kind and compassionate to others is impossible when we cannot face the possibility of being wrong. The core of kindness is letting other people be who they are, about acceptance. It’s about reaching out a compassionate hand and being there for someone, no matter who is right or who is wrong. Unless we have walked in another’s shoes, there is no way for us to truly comprehend what a person is feeling and how his or her past has shaped current beliefs and actions. When we let go of being right, we can more easily say, “I may not agree with you, but I accept you and all that you are.”
We turn into jackasses Let’s not sugarcoat things. We all know those people who insist they’re right about everything and we all avoid them because they’re jackasses. It doesn’t matter if they happen to be right about a number of topics, people stop listening to them because of their attitude and lack of empathy. These types start to hang out only with those who share the same narrow worldview that they have so that soon, their circle of friends is limited only to ‘cronies’ who constantly bandy the same ideas and opinions back and forth.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy to let go of the need to be right. Many of us have developed this armor because we’re afraid of what being wrong would do to our view of ourselves, or our view of the world. As I’ve mentioned, it’s often a mask for a deep-seated fear we don’t know how to deal with. There are a few simple steps you can start to take, however, on the road to recovery. Next time you feel the need to be right, try:
Asking yourself if you’d rather be happy or right in this one situation. In many cases, the two cannot coexist. Which one is more important?
Focusing on curiosity. When you listen to someone, you’re not automatically admitting you may be wrong. Tell yourself you’re only being curious to see how others feel. This can often help you take off the armor of fear.
Acknowledging your right to change your mind, and that it doesn’t diminish you. Try to reframe what it means to change your mind. Instead of it indicating a failure on your part, see it as a learning opportunity.
One of the most beautiful things about this world is the diversity. Different thoughts, opinions, and personalities are what makes life interesting, and are often what sparks change and growth. When we insist on being right, we not only lose out on the beauty around us, but we also slowly erode the relationships we hold dear. Next time you find yourself wanting to attack, take a deep breath and ask yourself: what is being right going to cost me?
Trish Cody has over 18 years of experience consulting with some of the world’s top Fortune 500 Companies. Today, as an ICF and iPEC Certified Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with clients to uncover their core values and beliefs, clearly see how they are showing up in their behaviors and impacting their success, and to shift their thinking to naturally attract positivity and success. For more information, visit www.TrishCody.com.