The Right to Be Wrong

Our cul­ture is built for win­ners. Every­one else is a loser. Whose aim in life is to be a loser? Not me, cer­tainly, and I per­son­ally don’t know of any­one who has. So, what do we do in the game of win­ning? We try to be right as much as we pos­si­bly can. Even if we know we are wrong we will try to con­vince oth­ers that we are right, or we will look like losers. “Look­ing good” is impor­tant. It projects a win­ner.  And I don’t mean just looks, but a gen­eral per­cep­tion of oth­ers that we are “in the know,” that we are always right, that we know what we are talk­ing about, that our judg­ments are cor­rect. We want to be trust­wor­thy and reli­able. We want to be RIGHT. We expect that oth­ers want to be right too and we “know” that if we admit that we are wrong oth­ers will not only gloat, make us look bad, lose respect for us, but also take advan­tage of us in every way possible.

All these attempts at being right are masks to hide behind in order to look good, but being always right is an impos­si­ble task to accom­plish. Suc­cess­ful peo­ple in busi­ness and in rela­tion­ships (busi­ness is made of rela­tion­ships like most any other action in life) have made dis­pro­por­tion­ally more mis­takes and have been many times more wrong than right.

The road to suc­cess is paved with failures.

One of the main com­plaints in unsuc­cess­ful rela­tion­ships is “we fight a lot.” Why do peo­ple fight? You guessed it: each per­son keeps insist­ing they are right by furi­ously jus­ti­fy­ing their posi­tion, by mak­ing their part­ner wrong and inval­i­dat­ing their partner’s point of view in order to win an argu­ment, so as not to be per­ceived as a “loser”. This down­ward spi­ral causes ver­tigo from which it is hard to recover.

So how do win­ners deal with los­ing, with being wrong and recover from their mistakes?

The rule of thumb is: the more insis­tent, sig­nif­i­cant and seri­ous you are about being right the more dif­fi­cult it is to recover, which implies that the more will­ing you are to admit, or could be wrong, and the sooner you can do it, the eas­ier it is to stop the down­ward spi­ral into rela­tion­ship dis­in­te­gra­tion. If you screw up a lot, you would even have to use that dreaded action to pub­li­cally or for­mally APOLOGIZE, which most peo­ple avoid like the plague.

I like to say that your rela­tion­ship is as good as your last conversation.

My inten­tion in this arti­cle is to uncover the lunacy of spend­ing our ener­gies, and indeed our lives, try­ing to be right about every­thing. Only peo­ple with low self-esteem and a low opin­ion of them­selves insist on being right all the time in a futile attempt to hide their inse­cu­ri­ties. If you are one of those peo­ple I sug­gest that you start doing exactly the oppo­site. Start being authen­tic. Stop hid­ing behind your right­eous­ness. Oth­ers will admire you for your courage, which most likely they them­selves do not have.  Peo­ple want to be right for fear of not being accepted, being shunned, rejected, not respected and, of course, not loved, when in fact the result is quite opposite.

This is how we “intu­itively” react to sit­u­a­tions when the right actions may be quite counter-intuitive: Most of our behav­ior is con­ducted from our rep­til­ian brain, our fight or flight instinct. We some­how uncon­sciously equate a chal­leng­ing con­ver­sa­tion with an encounter with a saber-tooth tiger. This brain, which has direct access to the emo­tional cen­ter (the amyg­dala), decides our actions. Becom­ing aware of what is REALLY hap­pen­ing, i.e., pro­cess­ing it through your con­scious mind (the neo-cortex), will uncover other pos­si­bil­i­ties and oppor­tu­ni­ties to “sur­vive” a con­ver­sa­tion with­out the knee-jerk reac­tion of hav­ing to be right.

In con­clu­sion: enjoy being wrong. You might as well, because most of the time you are. Con­sider that your beliefs are just that: YOUR beliefs, not nec­es­sar­ily facts. Allow oth­ers to have theirs. The world is not made to your spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Be gra­cious with oth­ers by allow­ing them to be wrong with­out beat­ing them up about it and mak­ing them wrong about being wrong. In other words, stop being right about their being wrong. If not imme­di­ately, but soon, they will start to rec­i­p­ro­cate, which ulti­mately leads to a great rela­tion­ship where each of you can be com­pletely authen­tic, and have the free­dom to be yourself.

To have a great rela­tion­ship you must give up the right to be right. Be a winner!

Good luck.


The Freedom of Being: Beyond Right/Wrong

The Free­dom of Being: Beyond Right/Wrong, Win/Lose, etc.

By Larry Pearson

Taken from The Land­mark Newsletter

Land­mark Forum Lead­ers in Conversation

This pas­sage comes from The New York Times: “Long before seat belts or com­mon sense were par­tic­u­larly wide­spread, my fam­ily made annual trips to New York in our sta­tion wagon. Mom and Dad took the front seat, my infant sis­ter sat in my mother’s lap and my brother and I had the back all to our­selves. We’d lounge around doing puz­zles, read­ing comics, and count­ing license plates. Even­tu­ally we’d fight. When our fight had finally esca­lated to the point of tears, our mother would turn around to chas­tise us, and my brother and I would start to plead our cases. ‘But he hit me first,’ one of us would say, to which the other would inevitably add, ‘But he hit me harder.’

It turns out that my brother and I were not alone in believ­ing that these two claims can get a puncher off the hook. In vir­tu­ally every human soci­ety, ‘He hit me first’ pro­vides an accept­able ratio­nale for doing that which is oth­er­wise for­bid­den. It is thought that a punch thrown sec­ond is legally and morally dif­fer­ent than a punch thrown first. The prob­lem with the prin­ci­ple of even-numberedness is that peo­ple count dif­fer­ently. Peo­ple think of their own actions as the con­se­quences of what came before, they think of other people’s actions as the causes of what came later, and that their rea­sons and pains are more pal­pa­ble, more obvi­ous and real, than that of others.” *

The stuff of wars, soap operas, divorce courts, Ham­let, and more all bor­row on that equa­tion, as do we. While we might wish we’d left that even-numberedness to our child­hood and ado­les­cence, it’s not to be. The dynamic of deal­ing with issues that are unwanted, yet per­sist con­tin­ues to play out in board rooms, neigh­bor­hoods, mar­riages, and between nations—we jus­tify, we blame, we complain.

Issues that are unwanted, yet per­sist can be a pow­er­ful impe­tus for change, as evi­denced by the progress of human rights, for exam­ple. But there’s another world of things that are unwanted, yet persist—things that we com­plain about over and over, like some aspect of our rela­tion­ships or jobs that is not work­ing, and yet we find our­selves keep­ing around.

If we put what’s “unwanted, yet per­sists” together with “fixed ways of being,” we get what we call a “racket.” It’s a “mashup” of sorts (a web buzz­word). In a mashup, one web appli­ca­tion is com­bined with another, mak­ing both appli­ca­tions more pro­duc­tive and robust—you get some­thing greater than the sum of the parts. If you mash up what’s unwanted, yet per­sists (which is most likely occur­ring as a com­plaint) and a fixed way of being, you also get some­thing greater than the sum of its parts, but in this case, the yield heads in the wrong direction—the com­bi­na­tion is unpro­duc­tive or more accu­rately, counterproductive.

com­plaint is some kind of opin­ion or judg­ment of the way things “should” or “shouldn’t be.” The eval­u­a­tive com­po­nent isn’t a com­men­tary on facts that are true or false, accu­rate or not, but again how we think thingsshould be. By fixed way of being we mean act­ing in a pre­dictable and repet­i­tive man­ner (like always frus­trated, always upset, always angry, always nice, always annoyed, always sus­pi­cious, always con­fused, etc.). What­ever ourfixed way of being is, it’s not some­thing we have a choice over. It’s just there—it shows up auto­mat­i­cally when the com­plaint shows up. It’s also worth not­ing that a recur­ring com­plaint doesn’t cause the way of being, nor does the way of being cause the recur­ring complaint—they sim­ply come together in one pack­age. The whole point here, though, is that it’s a fixed way of being, not a pos­si­ble way of being.

The term “racket” comes from the days of big-city gang­sters and street-level crim­i­nals who con­ducted ques­tion­able activities—loan-sharking, bribery, larceny—usually set up to get some kind of pay­off, cam­ou­flaged by an accept­able cover above sus­pi­cion. In a “rack­e­teer­ing” oper­a­tion, the efforts at con­ceal­ing what’s going on behind the scenes can become quite elab­o­rate so as to pro­tect and ensure the suc­cess of the oper­a­tion. We bor­row the term racket as it’s applic­a­ble to our con­tem­po­rary lives and because it car­ries with it many of the same properties—deception, smoke screens, pay­offs, etc.

Some­times per­sis­tent com­plaints orig­i­nate with us, other times they come at us from some­one else. It’s harder to see that we’re in “racket mode” with com­plaints that come at us, because it looks like some­body else is the per­sis­tent com­plainer, and we just an inno­cent bystander. But under closer scrutiny, it turns out we too have complaints—complaints about their com­plaints. Our match­ing com­plaint might show up like, “don’t they under­stand, don’t they know how it is for me, why are they nag­ging, don’t they see every­thing I’m doing for them?” When we com­plain, we feel quite jus­ti­fied that our response is appro­pri­ate to the situation.

We explain the ratio­nale behind our com­plaints to inter­ested (and unin­ter­ested) par­ties, and point out how pleased we are with our­selves for tak­ing the nec­es­sary steps to sort things out—we have a cer­tain fond­ness for our attempts, for “try­ing.” We might get our friends, fam­ily, or cowork­ers to agree that we’re deal­ing with our com­plaints the best we can. If they point out that per­haps we’re the one per­pet­u­at­ing the prob­lem, we could feel mis­un­der­stood, put out, even busted. Seen from a dis­tance, there can be some­thing almost endear­ing about how we go about all this—as if it’s part of our authen­tic and sin­cere spirit—but actu­ally, our ratio­nale for doing what we do is another thing entirely. This is the cam­ou­flage or cover-up part. The decep­tive nature of a racket and the allure of the pay­off keep us from real­iz­ing the full impact rack­ets have in our lives.

The pay­offs for keep­ing rack­ets around usu­ally show up in sev­eral ways: being right and mak­ing oth­ers wrong (not the fac­tual kind of right, but think­ing that we are right and the other per­son is wrong), being dom­i­nat­ing or avoid­ing dom­i­na­tion, jus­ti­fy­ing our­selves and inval­i­dat­ing oth­ers (attribut­ing cause to some thing or per­son other than our­selves), engag­ing in the win/lose dynamic (not “win­ning” like a cel­e­bra­tion with tro­phies, applause, or con­grat­u­la­tions to the oppo­nent, but win­ning such that some­one else is the loser or is less­ened in some way). These pay­offs are like facets of a diamond—although one facet might be more dom­i­nant than another (and we might deny or not be aware that some aspect of a pay­off is active in our case), they’re really all at play.

The pull of these pay­offs is often com­pelling enough to get us to give up love, vital­ity, self-expression, health, and hap­pi­ness. That’s a ridicu­lously strong force. Those costs are the stan­dard fare of a racket.  It’s pretty obvi­ous that we can’t be happy, vital, and lov­ing while we’re mak­ing some­one wrong, dom­i­nat­ing some­one, being right, or jus­ti­fy­ing ourselves—one dis­places the other. This is where choice comes into the picture.

Rack­ets, although one thing, have two forms of exis­tence (some­what like ice and steam are two forms of H2O). One form of a racket shows up as “I am X, Y, or Z.” The sec­ond shows up as “ahhh, I have a racket that is X, Y, or Z.” When we are the racket, it shapes and deter­mines our way of being. But when we have a racket, it has very lit­tle power over our way of being. We have a choice about what’s at play—about giv­ing up our rack­ets, our posi­tions, our unpro­duc­tive ways of being. When we elect to trans­form our default ways of being—being right, com­ing out on top (the even-numberedness, so to speak)—we move to a place of free­dom, a place of pos­si­bil­ity. The ques­tion then becomes: How do I express my life? What would be, for me, the most extra­or­di­nary, cre­ated, invented life?  It becomes a mat­ter of art, of design. How extra­or­di­nary are the every­day aspects of our lives; how rich our lives are, how full of oppor­tu­nity, when we act on the pos­si­bil­ity of liv­ing life fully.

* Adapted from Daniel Gilbert, New York Times, 7/24/06.

Click HERE for The Rela­tion­ship Saver, The Fast Track Man­ual for Sav­ing your Relationship.


Self Defense For Verbal Conflict

My good friend Philip, an Aikido prac­ti­tioner,  wrote this arti­cle. I imme­di­ately rec­og­nized it as a gold mine for resolv­ing rela­tion­ship con­flicts (although this par­tic­u­lar story is about a con­flict with a neigh­bor) and and at the same time devel­op­ing your­self. Our auto­matic behav­ior is to re-act to each other which, as I men­tioned in The Rela­tion­ship Saver, throws a wrench into the wheels of our rela­tion­ship and into a down­ward spin. Here Philip elo­quently explains how to stop react­ing and take your  rela­tion­ship into your own hands, the Aikido way.



Self Defense For Ver­bal Con­flict

By Philip Stearns

A cou­ple days ago my friends Radomir and Antoinette were accosted by their next-door neigh­bor, a young, 20-something woman.  Based on the per­ceived affront of a car parked too close to her dri­ve­way, the woman mate­ri­al­ized on their front porch, banged on the door and, when Antoinette answered the knock, pro­ceeded to threat­en­ingly cuss her out as being an incon­sid­er­ate, f-ing bitch before head­ing back across the drive to her house.  Her hus­band Radomir, upon hear­ing of the inci­dent, made the trip next door to get to the bot­tom of the sit­u­a­tion.  He was met by a sim­i­lar stream of invec­tive high­lighted by the resound­ing bang of the door slam­ming in his face.

Hav­ing been friends with Antoinette for many years and know­ing her to be an extremely polite, respect­ful, gen­tle, soft-spoken, reserved Eng­lish woman, this scene seemed almost amus­ing in its absur­dity.  Who could get so worked up with Antoinette?  The look on her face, how­ever, revealed how shaken up she was by the episode.  Radomir, him­self an expert in human inter­ac­tions and rela­tion­ships and an author on the topic, was sim­i­larly both­ered by the extreme nature of the ver­bal attack.  The ques­tion imme­di­ately arose in the con­ver­sa­tion as to how I would have han­dled the woman had it been me stand­ing in the door­way, nose-to-nose with the rag­ing, abu­sive shrew.  I prac­tice a defen­sive art called aikido – some­times referred to as “the art of peace” — that is all about resolv­ing con­flict so this real-world episode demanded con­sid­er­a­tion and raised the ques­tion: how do you han­dle a sud­den, intense ver­bal attack so that every­one can win?  After all, the lady was their next-door neigh­bor.  You don’t want to aggra­vate the rela­tion­ship.  But you want to defuse the sit­u­a­tion and, ide­ally, feel good about it.

Before explor­ing approaches that can be taken in sit­u­a­tions like this, it is use­ful to under­stand a cou­ple of facts about human biol­ogy and psy­chol­ogy.  Under­stand­ing them is the key to both keep­ing your cool under fire and help­ing your assailant sim­mer down.

First of all, humans are equipped with an amaz­ing brain, the prod­uct of mil­lions of years of evo­lu­tion.  The brain is actu­ally made up of many inter­ac­tive parts.  Some two dozen or so of the old­est parts make up some­thing called the lim­bic sys­tem, a set of brain struc­tures that line the inner bor­der of the cor­tex.  Phys­i­o­log­i­cal func­tions such as sleep cycles, heart rate, blood pres­sure, hunger, thirst, sex­ual arousal, for­ma­tion of long-term mem­ory, fight or flight impulses, among other low level, basic func­tions, find a home in the lim­bic sys­tem.  This is the area of the brain that kept us alive through ancient times of extreme adver­sity.  This is where the impulse to flee from dan­ger is gen­er­ated and where the reflex­ive instincts to pro­tect our selves, our chil­dren, our food, our shel­ter and our stuff come from.  Sur­vival has always been the name of the game and fight-or-flight was a key to enabling us to see the sun rise another day.  Even now, after count­less gen­er­a­tions, if we per­ceive we are being attacked or threat­ened in some way, elab­o­rate hor­monal and phys­i­o­log­i­cal changes instantly emanate from the lim­bic sys­tem trig­ger­ing emo­tional responses like fear or anger.  The reflex­ive instinct towards self-defense rises from the ancient rep­til­ian brain, insist­ing we flee or fight.  Inher­ent in these reflex­ive feel­ings is a sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity from exter­nal sources of danger.

The next useful-to-understand fact of human nature is that each of us pos­sesses a set of bio­log­i­cal ‘switches’ for our emo­tions.  These switches are entirely auto­matic and they are uni­ver­sal.  They are often referred to as the Affect Sys­tem and they devel­oped along­side the lim­bic sys­tem to aid in our sur­vival in some way.  Most of the emo­tions that are trig­gered are thought of as being ‘neg­a­tive’, such as fear, anger, shame, dis­tress, dis­gust, etc.  A few are ‘pos­i­tive’, like inter­est, excite­ment and joy.  For our pur­poses here, it is only impor­tant to under­stand that:

1.  These emo­tional switches exist and they are fun­da­men­tal to who we are.  We all have them.
2.  Only a sin­gle switch/emotion can be acti­vated at-a-time.  An anal­ogy would be those old-fashioned car radios with ‘radio but­tons’; when one is pushed, the oth­ers pop out.  So, for exam­ple, we don’t expe­ri­ence fear and joy simul­ta­ne­ously, or anger and inter­est.  If you are feel­ing joy­ful and some­thing sud­denly fright­ens you, joy will give way to fear, and visa-versa.
3.  The third fact that is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant to our expe­ri­ence in a sit­u­a­tion that we per­ceive as being threat­en­ing is a phe­nom­e­non often referred to as “affect res­o­nance”.  In a nut­shell, peo­ple tend to auto­mat­i­cally share emo­tions to one degree or another.  If a per­son is upset in our pres­ence, we tend to feel upset.  We res­onate emo­tion­ally.   The pres­ence of an excited per­son tends to make us feel excited, too.  Joy begets joy, anger begets anger, and so on.  This is most read­ily observed in chil­dren.  New­borns in a hos­pi­tal nurs­ery, for exam­ple, can eas­ily be seen shar­ing  ‘dis­tress’.  One hun­gry baby starts cry­ing and all the babies join in, hun­gry or not.  For­tu­nately, as we grow up we grad­u­ally learn to mod­u­late these emo­tional reac­tions.  With­out the learned abil­ity to get a han­dle on this phe­nom­e­non of Affect Res­o­nance every upset per­son would trig­ger upset in all of those around him.  Every tear would gen­er­ate a tor­rent of tears.  So, as we mature, we learn to mod­u­late the impulse to spon­ta­neously share the emo­tions of those around us.  Nonethe­less, we still feel the basic impulses when exposed to another person’s emo­tional state.

Right!  Now we have an under­stand­ing of these basic facts of human nature.  How might this serve us when faced with an enraged, scream­ing, threat­en­ing neigh­bor who has appeared on the doorstep intent upon vent­ing her rage and mak­ing you feel as bad as humanly pos­si­ble?  Let’s take a look…

First of all, the most nat­ural expe­ri­ence for most peo­ple is for your body and mind to become highly reac­tive as affect res­o­nance kicks in.  The woman is loud, angry and threat­en­ing.  You may well quickly feel hot, shaky, per­haps fear­ful or angry.  Maybe you will feel guilty or ashamed if your car really was block­ing the neighbor’s dri­ve­way.  Or, you might be dis­gusted by the bizarre dis­play. What­ever the ini­tial feel­ings, they will almost cer­tainly be neg­a­tive.  The inten­sity of the assault will be a shock to your sys­tem.  The first step toward tak­ing advan­tage of the sit­u­a­tion is clearly to get a grip on you.  You can feel your­self los­ing it.  What to do??

Remem­ber that what­ever affects (switches) are being thrown and what­ever emo­tion you are expe­ri­enc­ing can be coun­ter­acted by con­sciously throw­ing a dif­fer­ent switch.  The trick is to con­trol your mind.  It might be use­ful to see the woman on the porch as being a sales­per­son who is sell­ing you some­thing you really don’t want to buy.  After all, why would you want to buy a body full of rag­ing pep­tides and a head full of dis­tress?  Or, in the words of Tom Waits, “a head full of light­ning and a hat full of rain.” So, the first order of busi­ness is to CHOOSE to move your atten­tion con­sciously to some place other than the woman’s face which is the pri­mary pro­jec­tor of her rage.  My favorite loca­tion in this sit­u­a­tion is the bot­tom of my feet.  Put your atten­tion on the soles of your feet and become aware of the feel­ing of pres­sure com­ing from the con­tact with the floor.  Think about the feel­ing, visu­al­ize your feet and the way they greet the floor.  Are you wear­ing shoes?  How do they look?  Raise your big toes and see how the sen­sa­tions in your feet change.  Put them down again.  Take a deep breath and imag­ine the air is trav­el­ing all the way down to your feet.  Put your atten­tion in your feet.  Breath into them.

What this exer­cise is doing is cap­tur­ing your atten­tion and trig­ger­ing the “inter­est” switch.  You are switch­ing off the neg­a­tive emo­tions and turn­ing on inter­est.  You are calm­ing down and giv­ing your­self a break from being buf­feted by your own biol­ogy.  Now, main­tain­ing your aware­ness of the bot­tom of your feet, move your atten­tion to the woman’s body.  Notice that you can now do that with­out feel­ing reac­tive.  Inves­ti­gate all the ways she has become rigid, unbal­anced and unsteady.  Allow your­self to be absorbed in this inves­ti­ga­tion.  Then take another breath and extend com­pas­sion towards this trou­bled woman.  Feel a con­nec­tion form.  Reach out to her in your mind.  You now have some­thing that she dearly needs.  You have calm, empa­thy and compassion.

This is where the magic begins.  Notice that one of two things is going to hap­pen.  Either the woman is going to break away and leave because she feels her mood slip­ping away and she is invested in hold­ing onto the intensely neg­a­tive feel­ings… or…. she is going to calm down.  She is look­ing for resis­tance and you are giv­ing her none.  The abil­ity to main­tain her rage depends on your resis­tance.  She needs some­one to push on to main­tain her rage. When you take the resis­tance away, so goes the ugly mood.

Affect res­o­nance goes both ways.  Just as your emo­tions are trig­gered by your neighbor’s intense anger, so will her mood be affected by YOUR emo­tional state.  THIS is your power.  This is your road out of a sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and into a sense of peace and empowerment.

So, the name of the game is not to react to your neigh­bor… but to con­trol you.  When you trap your own atten­tion and become inter­ested or even – with prac­tice — joy­ful in the pres­ence of your neigh­bor, she is going to feel her own mood alter in accor­dance to the laws of her own phys­i­o­log­i­cal makeup.  It’s just a fan­tas­tic and for­tu­nate fact of human biol­ogy.  Your neighbor’s abil­ity to main­tain her rag­ing emo­tional state is under­mined by your own pos­i­tive pres­ence.  She can­not feel your inter­est, com­pas­sion, or your love with­out res­onat­ing to it and with­out hav­ing her neg­a­tive emo­tions switched off.  By con­trol­ling your­self you are switch­ing off your neighbor’s anger switch.  You have the power.  And it’s a win-win.  Once calm, you can work out the details of your differences.

The prob­lem in human con­flict is never the per­son attack­ing you.  The only issue is how you feel about it.  That feel­ing becomes a choice when you under­stand how your feel­ings oper­ate.  And, once you have expe­ri­enced the real­ity that what you choose to feel either sup­ports or dis­solves your attacker’s neg­a­tive inten­tions, it becomes dif­fi­cult not to ask the ques­tion, “who is really respon­si­ble for this situation?”


Facts vs. Feelings

The more I learn about dif­fer­ences between men and women (or I should rather say fem­i­nine and mas­cu­line) the more I dis­cover the causes of mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tions that that are per­va­sive in man/woman rela­tion­ships. The fol­low­ing is a per­fect exam­ple how mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine per­ceive and inter­pret real­ity, which if under­stood and han­dled prop­erly can solve most of the rela­tionship prob­lems, but if unat­tended can eas­ily esca­late to a break-up or divorce.

Here is the exam­ple in the two cor­re­spon­dences that I received from Ali­son Arm­strong, a rela­tion­ship expert who I respect very much. (Her books, courses and CDs you can find in the right col­umn on this website.)

After read­ing this exam­ple try to see other occur­rences where gen­der dif­fer­ences, if under­stood prop­erly can save you a lot of grief in your relationship.

What doy think about this? Let us know.

Best regards,


Dear Radomir,

One of the things we dis­cov­ered years ago is that the Mas­cu­line mea­sures real­ity by trusted FACTs while the Fem­i­nine real­ity is cre­ated by her FEEL­INGs.  Both of these are com­pletely valid ways of see­ing the world.

An inter­est­ing and haz­ardous side effect, how­ever, is when you put these two real­i­ties in an auto­mo­bile together.  Let’s call the Mas­cu­line a “Man,” although this is not always true, and the Fem­i­nine a “Woman,” also not always true ~ but eas­ier to repeat over and over again.  He’s going to pay atten­tion to being Fac­tu­ally safe, while she can’t help but notice if she Feels safe.

Add to this the dif­fer­ence in eye­sight for men and women: He can track mov­ing objects way bet­ter than she can; she has a periph­eral vision that’s more sen­si­tive and prey-like than preda­tor ~ mean­ing she sees more threats.

This is how you have a woman full of ten­sion and poten­tially freak­ing out because he keeps chang­ing lanes.  Every time he moves the car to a lane on her side, it will look to her like cars on her side might hit her.  So she doesn’t Feel safe.  He may know fac­tu­ally that he hasn’t had an acci­dent in decades, that the car over on the other side wasn’t going to move, that the speed with which he slipped in that spot missed the other car by a mile… and so on.

Unfor­tu­nately, the Fact of her being safe will not make her Feel safe.  And a man’s great­est chal­lenge with women is mak­ing them FEEL SAFE.  Because every­thing good from a woman begins with her feel­ing safe ~ and every­thing nasty begins with her feel­ing unsafe.

I would love your com­ments and ques­tions related to this topic.  It’s worth exploring!



Thank you for your pro­found response to “Chang­ing Lanes.”  I’m thrilled that so many of you found insight, inspi­ra­tion, relief and, even, heal­ing, in a seem­ingly small thing that effects our time with the oppo­site sex in such a big way.

To con­tinue the dia­log: Since learn­ing about the effect of chang­ing lanes on my feel­ings of safety, Greg has mod­i­fied the way he dri­ves.  On a recent trip back from Ore­gon, he apol­o­gized for get­ting close to a semi-truck as he nego­ti­ated the hol­i­day traf­fic.  His apol­ogy was sweet but unnec­es­sary.  As I said to him, “Honey, chillin’ the cave­woman is a part­ner­ship.  I just reminded myself that, as a hunter, you track mov­ing objects much bet­ter than I do and the fact is you’ve never plowed me into the back of a truck!  So I calmed myself down.”

I tell you this because under­stand­ing our instincts and hav­ing a vic­tory of human spirit is some­thing we can all do.  On one end, it’s mak­ing an accom­mo­da­tion to not antag­o­nize another’s most prim­i­tive reac­tions.  On the other, it’s being respon­si­ble for hav­ing them and talk­ing your­self back down off the cliff edge.  Being will­ing to act from whichever end you’re on is a gift to our part­ners — and just plain smart.  Using the infor­ma­tion about our great­est weak­nesses and demand­ing solely the accom­mo­da­tion from our part­ners isn’t fair or in true partnership.

Speak­ing of part­ner­ship, I’m off to Col­orado for three weeks of bliss with some of my favorite two and four-legged part­ners.  PAX World News will return in Sep­tem­ber renewed.  Mean­while, Patrice will give you ample oppor­tu­ni­ties to lis­ten and watch the lat­est inter­views shar­ing my most recent trea­sures from the adven­tures of study­ing men, women and part­ner­ship.  Look for those emails from her in August.

Many bless­ings,




Gender Equality in A Relationship

I real­ize that this is too big a sub­ject to cram into one arti­cle, so I am going to raise some ques­tions about what it means to be equal in an adult man/woman (or gay) rela­tion­ship. I have many women friends and I do my best to treat them as equals, but some­times by treat­ing them as an “equal” I tend to pre­sume that they will react as men do to what I say. WRONG! A female friend of mine once jok­ingly said that she was leav­ing my party because there was no cake and I jok­ingly, of course with­out think­ing, replied: ”But didn’t you put some weight on lately?”
That was a bad mis­take. She got really upset, and no mat­ter how much I apol­o­gized and said that I loved and cher­ished her as a friend, she kept cry­ing and say­ing that if I loved her I wouldn’t have said such a thing to her. Need­less to say the sit­u­a­tion became very seri­ous.  Had I said that to a man, he most likely would have laughed.
The ques­tion I have for you is this: can a man and a woman be equal, and what are the con­di­tions and rules of behav­ior in treat­ing each other given that men and women are so very dif­fer­ent? One of the rules we hear often is to treat oth­ers the way you want to be treated your­self. In the above exam­ple it cer­tainly did not work. Men would cer­tainly not react the same way to my com­ment. So, a bet­ter rule would be to treat oth­ers the way THEY want to be treated. Great, but how do we know what oth­ers think? What comes to mind first is just ask them, but even ask­ing them may pro­voke unwanted feel­ings and reac­tions.
Men and women ARE dif­fer­ent. In fact, we are so dif­fer­ent that it jus­ti­fies the phrase “oppo­site sex”. Where does equal­ity come in then? These are some of the fun­da­men­tal differences:

Men / Women

Big­ger                                             Smaller

Stronger                                          Weaker

Aggres­sive                                       Defensive

Pro­tec­tors                                        Protected

Fathers (can­not bear chil­dren)           Mothers

Ratio­nal                                           Emotional

Hunters                                            Gath­er­ers

Want sex                                          Want security

Want free­dom                                   Want relationship

Please add your own….

The whole issue about equal­ity was ini­tially raised by women. The Women’s Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment started because women felt sub­ju­gated and wanted to be equal to men. And there is no denial that in many cases  women are not treated the same as men, such as not get­ting equal pay for equal work. But in gen­eral, isn’t it just a nat­ural out­come of our genetic dif­fer­ences?
Do women really want to be the same as men, or do they want to be as pow­er­ful as men? The con­text seems to be deci­sive here. Which area are we talk­ing about: inti­mate rela­tion­ships, social inter­ac­tions or busi­ness envi­ron­ment? This is a ques­tion espe­cially for a woman in a fem­i­nist move­ment to answer because a woman would have to be adopt­ing a chameleon behav­ior in dif­fer­ent con­texts. Is that healthy, or even pos­si­ble? Do women have to pre­tend to be more like men in a busi­ness envi­ron­ments? If they do, does it come eas­ier for some then for oth­ers to adopt these mas­cu­line traits? Can women be just as nat­u­rally and authen­ti­cally fem­i­nine at work? It cer­tainly seems to be an unwel­come behav­ior in this “man-made world.” If a woman is forced to take on some mas­cu­line traits in order to suc­ceed at work, how does that reflect on her rela­tion­ships towards men. I think she can get pretty resent­ful about the whole affair and put the blame on men.
On the other hand, when it comes to the ques­tion of hav­ing good sex, part­ners have to take on their authen­tic mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine role.  Oppo­sites cre­ate energy flow. The big­ger the dif­fer­ence between cou­ples’ respec­tive roles, the stronger the sex­ual attrac­tion. In order to main­tain “equal­ity” in a social arena and the work­place, can they and should they main­tain that dif­fer­ence, or do they  have to drift closer to each other, i.e., men adopt more of women char­ac­ter­is­tics — such as being more sen­si­tive and express­ing their feel­ings — and should women adopt more mas­cu­line traits, such as com­pet­i­tive­ness, being more sin­gle focused and tougher alto­gether? This cer­tainly seems to be hap­pen­ing in the work­place and, sadly, in inti­mate rela­tion­ships as well.
Many “lib­er­ated” women insist on being treated as an equal in a rela­tion­ship. Is that what they really want? Instead of a woman being an equal part­ner in the sense that she is self-aware, respon­si­ble, and wants to know her man as a per­son, fem­i­nism seem to have pro­duced a dou­bly defen­sive woman who is on guard about her rights, but insis­tent that men be roman­tic and “make her feel like a woman” by act­ing like a real man. A lib­er­ated woman insists on changes in her atti­tude and ide­ol­ogy but not in her deeper fem­i­nine process; she has tra­di­tional long­ings and needs, is attracted to men who are win­ners and avoids weaker, less ambi­tious men, and she wants a man to play the lead role unless she decides oth­er­wise. For the man there is often a con­fus­ing sense that what­ever he does he will be made wrong and blamed. If he treats her as an equal, it does not feel roman­tic to her. If he treats her in tra­di­tional ways, he is often con­sid­ered to be a chau­vin­ist and sex­ist. He is expected to be a man and yet to not act as a man at the same time. When a man can­not achieve this dichotomy, a lib­er­ated woman becomes angry and blames him for not being able to ful­fill this impos­si­ble dream.
From my per­sonal point of view, in a rela­tion­ship, if a woman’s issue is power in a rela­tion­ship then she has noth­ing to com­plain about, or be lib­er­ated from. Her power is just as promi­nent as the man’s. The only rea­son that this is not so obvi­ous is that the “lib­er­ated” woman is look­ing for power in the wrong place, a man’s place. As I said above, it all depends on the con­text, and in the con­text of a rela­tion­ship a woman’s power is enor­mous, start­ing with the abil­ity to bear chil­dren and her ulti­mate choice of men to share par­ent­hood with, to a say­ing that behind a great man there always stands a great or pow­er­ful woman.
To my mind, equal­ity in a rela­tion­ship con­sists of uncon­di­tional respect, accep­tance and love for who the per­son is as a human and a spir­i­tual being. If a woman is objec­ti­fied (as men often do, espe­cially regard­ing sex) respect for a woman is often absent. On the other hand, there is con­di­tional respect for what the per­son does, which really applies to all peo­ple regard­less of gen­der or their posi­tion in soci­ety.
Let us know what do you think.


How To Avoid A Conflict

argu­ment |ˈärgyəmənt|


1 an exchange of diverg­ing or oppo­site views, typ­i­cally a heated or angry one

Accord­ing to the above def­i­n­i­tion – and we will con­cen­trate on the most com­mon vari­ety – an argu­ment is a con­flict of views or opinions.

In order to be able to dis­solve a con­flict we must first be able to dis­tin­guish between a fact and an opin­ion or a per­sonal view.

The fol­low­ing are some exam­ples of opin­ion statements:

This is ter­ri­ble

You are wrong

You are a jerk, rude, etc.

You are very late

You always do that

You never ______

And here are some fact statements:

It is rain­ing here

I am home

You arrived at 2:40 PM

I am hungry

I think that you ______

The door is open

You said: _____

I did not go to work yesterday

Most of the time con­flict arises from think­ing that our opin­ions are facts and our treat­ing them as facts. The prob­lem starts when we start tak­ing actions based on what we per­ceive as a fact but in real­ity they are only our opinions.

Often we are blind to the fact that our opin­ions are just that, and although they may appear as facts to us, they are just “our” truths and not THE truths. The first step in dis­solv­ing a con­flict of this nature is to start own­ing our opin­ions.

As a speaker we can start by mod­i­fy­ing the way we make statements:

Instead of say­ing “This is wrong” you may say I THINK that this is wrong. Instead of say­ing: “You are wrong”, you may want to ask: “Why do you think that?” Instead of angry become curious.

Opin­ions are inter­pre­ta­tions, judg­ments and assess­ments ABOUT what hap­pened. Opin­ions are gen­er­ated in our mind.

I have heard many peo­ple fight tooth and nail to prove that their opin­ions are true. And yes, they are true, but only for them and not nec­es­sar­ily for any­one else. Just because some or ALL the peo­ple agree with your opin­ion, it does not make it any more true.


Effective Communication vs. Arguments (1)

Before we start talk­ing about argu­ments and effec­tive  com­mu­ni­ca­tion, let’s define what we mean by these terms.

com­mu­ni­ca­tion |kəˌmy­oōnəˈkā sh ən|
• the suc­cess­ful con­vey­ing or shar­ing of ideas and feelings

ORIGIN: late Mid­dle Eng­lish : from Old French comu­ni­ca­cion, from Latin communicatio(n-), from the verb com­mu­ni­care ‘to share’ (see communicate ).

Also, here is the def­i­n­i­tion of argu­ment for our pur­poses as well, so that we know what we are talk­ing about:

argu­ment |ˈär­gyəmənt|
• an exchange of diverg­ing or oppo­site views, typ­i­cally a heated or angry one.
• a rea­son or set of rea­sons given with the aim of per­suad­ing oth­ers that an action or idea is right or wrong.

ORIGIN: Mid­dle Eng­lish (in the sense [process of rea­son­ing] ): via Old French from Latin argu­men­tum, from arguere ‘make clear, prove, accuse.’

Now that it is clear what the dif­fer­ence is between the two let’s see how we can start com­mu­ni­cat­ing effec­tively instead of argu­ing. If you hap­pen to pre­fer argu­ing, than you can just skip this arti­cle. I will not be offended in the least.

Let’s say at the begin­ning that heated argu­ments and anger are caused by fear and loss of power. When we iden­tify with our opin­ions and posi­tions, we per­ceive any dis­agree­ment as a threat to our per­son. As if some­how our iden­tity will be dimin­ished if we admit that we may be wrong and thus lose an argu­ment. Being right becomes tan­ta­mount to per­sonal sur­vival. Need­less to say, this is com­pletely auto­matic reac­tion aimed at sur­vival of our ego. The first step in con­trol­ling anger is as always to become aware of it and then rec­og­nize that our fear is ground­less. We do not die from los­ing an argu­ment. This is the first step in trans­form­ing an argu­ment into com­mu­ni­ca­tion; chill out and lose the fear.

If you do not want to get into argu­ment in the first place, it is impor­tant to get a lit­tle pre­pared before hand as well as being aware of your behav­ior dur­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Before any encounter starts make sure that you have a mutual pur­pose, or agreed upon rea­son for the con­ver­sa­tion. In other words that both of you want to talk about some­thing although you may wish for dif­fer­ent out­come. This process of agree­ment starts with your com­mit­ment to have the issue resolved and dis­solved into a win/win sit­u­a­tion. With­out this ini­tial and unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment on your part there is no hope for mean­ing­ful res­o­lu­tion, and argu­ments will most cer­tainly persevere.

So, in prepa­ra­tion for con­ver­sa­tion first learn what your partner’s story is. Do not pre­sume that you know. Your knowl­edge prob­a­bly comes from hearsay or from your inter­pre­ta­tions of his behav­ior. Either of these sources may be inac­cu­rate. Find out what infor­ma­tion you missed, or didn’t have access to. What past expe­ri­ences influ­enced him? What is his rea­son­ing why he did what he did? What were his inten­tions (not your inter­pre­ta­tions and thoughts about his inten­tions). What are his feel­ings? How this sit­u­a­tion affects him? What is at stake? While “find­ing out” his story make sure you are not spy­ing on him or doing any­thing out of integrity. As they say in court, ille­gally acquired evi­dence is not admis­si­ble. In your case, it kills the fur­ther con­ver­sa­tion about your issue and turns into the issue of trust.

Next thing is to express your views and feel­ings.  Your goal is to express your views and feel­ings about the sit­u­a­tion or an event clearly, hon­estly and respect­fully. A word of cau­tion: Express­ing your feel­ings does not mean that you “dump” your feel­ings onto your part­ner. You should talk about your feel­ings not demon­strat­ing them in your behav­ior. You can say that you are angry. But do not attack her to show her how much. With­out express­ing your feel­ings try to com­mu­ni­cate your views, inten­tions, feel­ings and con­tri­bu­tion to the prob­lem or the issue at hand. In other words you can share your story. If your part­ner is will­ing to lis­ten at all, the chances are that after such an hon­est and brave encounter you may start to actu­ally coop­er­ate and have a pro­duc­tive and mature con­ver­sa­tion where you will be able to brain­storm cre­ative ways to sat­isfy both of your needs and ensure a work­able way to resolve your conflict.

As it is impor­tant to have a mutual pur­pose for a con­ver­sa­tion it is as impor­tant to have mutual respect. You must con­sciously pre­pare for this in advance, cre­ate a mind­set. Any show of dis­re­spect for her will pro­duce a defen­sive reac­tion and con­ver­sa­tion will imme­di­ately become unsafe. The moment that dis­re­spect is shown the con­ver­sa­tion is no longer about the orig­i­nal pur­pose  – it is about defend­ing her dig­nity and at that point any com­mu­ni­ca­tion will come to a screech­ing halt. If you are shown dis­re­spect do not get “hooked”. Stay true to your val­ues and do not just auto­mat­i­cally, emo­tion­ally react. Keep show­ing respect and request that you be shown one if con­ver­sa­tion is to con­tinue. Keep eye on the ball i.e. on the orig­i­nal purpose.

Final step in prepa­ra­tion is to ensure that you have con­ducive envi­ron­ment for a con­ver­sa­tion, proper set­ting. (It is dif­fi­cult to have a good con­ver­sa­tion when you are not phys­i­cally com­fort­able, cold, in a noisy envi­ron­ment with no pri­vacy.) Do both of you have time, are you ready to have a frank dis­cus­sion, are both of you in a mood for tack­ling the prob­lems at hand, etc.?

Stay tuned.  Next time we will talk about some things to keep in mind dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion that will get your dif­fer­ences effec­tively resolved.

Fred Kofman’s phe­nom­e­nal book “Con­scious Busi­ness” inspired me to write this arti­cle. Thank you.



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