What’s Wrong With Always Being Right
One of the most prevalent – and damaging – themes in our culture is the need to be right. We all know those people who have to have the last word, answer the question first, or who will fight to the death to defend what they believe, even if facts or common sense prove otherwise. The need to be right is so deeply embedded in our belief system and in our collective psyche that we never even pause to consider it. After a recent discussion where I watched myself really, really want to contribute what I thought was right to someone who was obviously not interested in hearing any opinion but her own, I became curious about the why behind being right. Why is the urge so strong? Why is the need to be right so strong that wars, corruption, death, and carnage are often the result? What is the deal with always needing to be right?
Well, to begin with, if you’re not right, then you are indeed wrong, with all the accompanying sense of humiliation and failure. But is this a given? Does it have to be this way? Could we accept being incorrect without any loss or embarrassment?
I believe this fixation is more likely wed to highly competitive cultures than traditionally-oriented cooperative societies. In the latter, issues of right or wrong don’t equivalently inform one’s sense of self or identity. The ego may be shaped by other influences such as being honored, respected or altruistic. In first world cultures the drive to be right advances one in the competitive race. In the desire to get ahead this is utilized as a core value. I would actually suggest that this is a highly pervasive fixation attachment that ruins our relationships, derails our mindfulness and erodes our natural instinct to learn.
I often ask people if they’d rather be right or they’d rather be happy. Although nearly everyone says they would prefer happiness, the battle enjoins over right or wrong. If you pause and consider it, it’s really insane isn’t it? The very fact that we’d mindlessly choose to win an argument at the cost of damaging our relationships points to something terribly amiss. This inclination leads to the need to win an argument, which assures that no one is actively listening. If I need to be right, and we have differing points of view, that obviously makes you wrong.
Doesn’t exactly sound like the stuff of friendships, let alone romantic relations. This compulsion to be right sidetracks our lives and impedes our learning and happiness.
- Is your heart racing? Throat tightening? Are you poised like a puma waiting for the person to stop talking so you can interject your valiant wisdom? If so you might want to check yourself.
- Pause. Just for a moment. Listen to the other person. Are they even open to hearing your thoughts?
- Choose. Being right for the sake of being right does no one any good. If they aren’t open to hearing your side of things what good does it do to share with them?
- Humble yourself. This takes practice, but I’ve learned that I would rather not say anything unless I’m around those who can hear me and respectfully acknowledge or challenge my point of view.
- Let it go. Easier said than done, but this can save you a ton of energy. Rest in the fact that you will be heard and validated by those who can hear and validate you.
“Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”― Mark Twain