Is Being Right Worth It?
It starts innocently enough. Someone says something or leaves a comment. You disagree. Maybe it gets under your skin. Maybe you feel the comment deserves a response. Your intentions are good. Or maybe they’re not. Either way, you fire off a response. Best he understands the facts. Once he does, he’s bound to change his mind. To acknowledge that you’re right. Only this almost always backfires. We stand our ground. He stands his ground. Is there any hope for common ground? Why are we so compelled to be heard? And is it really so important to be right? From “Why Is It So Important To Be Right,” Mel Schwartz, LCWS, Psychology Today: “One of the most prevalent-and damaging-themes in our culture is the need to be right. It is so deeply embedded in our belief system and in our collective psyche that we never even pause to consider it. Being right affirms and inflates our sense of self-worth.” Read more. Being right feels good. We are vindicated. We are smart. We win. Or do we? Does the act of being right change minds? Does it open lines of communication? Get things accomplished? Make our relationships better? Hey, we understand that being right has its place. Neurosurgeons work in precision. Attorneys’ careers and cases are built on being ‘right.’ Who has the right of way on the road, the right answers on the quiz or the right stuff. We are wired and conditioned to be right. And the more research we did, we were convinced we were right in believing that being right was the ultimate goal (see what we did there?). And then we came across Brain Pickings, a free weekly interestingness digest that profiled “5 Must-Read Books on the Psychology of Being Wrong.” An entire weekly digest on being wrong, making mistakes and maybe, in the end, being a better person. Maria Papova gives it to us straight: “The pleasure of being right is one of the most universal human addictions and most of us spend an extraordinary amount of effort on avoiding or concealing wrongness. But error, it turns out, isn’t wrong. In fact, it’s not only what makes us human but also what enhances our capacity for empathy, optimism, courage and conviction.” Read more. If having the capacity for empathy, optimism, courage and conviction is wrong, we don’t want to be right. From Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “”Most of us learn to base our self-worth on comparisons and competition. We think about succeeding in terms of someone else failing-that is, if I win, you lose; or if you win, I lose. Life becomes a zero-sum game. Win-win sees life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying. Many people think in terms of either/or: either you’re nice or you’re tough. Win-win requires that you be both. It is a balancing act between courage and consideration. To go for win-win, you not only have to be empathic, but you also have to be confident. You not only have to be considerate and sensitive, you also have to be brave. To do that-to achieve that balance between courage and consideration-is the essence of real maturity and is fundamental to win-win.” Maybe it comes down to choosing between being right (winning) and being highly effective (i.e. successful, productive, positive, happy), in our relationships, our work and our lives. We’d put our money – and our Cheez Doodles – on Covey and his 7 Habits, every time.