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.



Peo­ple are very open-minded about new things…

as long as they’re exactly like the old ones!

—Charles Ket­ter­ing


Open-mindedness is the will­ing­ness to search actively for evi­dence against one’s favored beliefs, plans, or goals, and to weigh such evi­dence fairly when it is available.

Being open-minded does not imply that one is inde­ci­sive, wishy-washy, or inca­pable of think­ing for one’s self. After con­sid­er­ing var­i­ous alter­na­tives, an open-minded per­son can take a firm stand on a posi­tion and act accordingly.

The oppo­site of open-mindedness is what is called the myside bias which refers to the per­va­sive ten­dency to search for evi­dence and eval­u­ate evi­dence in a way that favors your ini­tial beliefs. Most peo­ple show myside bias, but some are more biased than others.

Ben­e­fits of Open-Mindedness

Research sug­gests the fol­low­ing ben­e­fits of open-mindedness:

  • Open-minded, cog­ni­tively com­plex indi­vid­u­als are less swayed by sin­gu­lar events and are more resis­tant to sug­ges­tion and manipulation.
  • Open-minded indi­vid­u­als are bet­ter able to pre­dict how oth­ers will behave and are less prone to projection.
  • Open-minded indi­vid­u­als tend to score bet­ter on tests of gen­eral cog­ni­tive abil­ity like the SAT or an IQ test. (Of course we don’t know whether being open-minded makes one smarter or vice versa.)

Open-Mindedness as a “Cor­rec­tive Virtue”

Social and cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gists have noted wide­spread errors in judgment/thinking to which we are all vul­ner­a­ble. In order to be open-minded, we have to work against these basic ten­den­cies, lead­ing virtue ethi­cists to call open-mindedness a cor­rec­tive virtue.

In addi­tion to the myside bias described above, here are three other cog­ni­tive ten­den­cies that work against open-minded thinking:

1) Selec­tive Exposure

We main­tain our beliefs by selec­tively expos­ing our­selves to infor­ma­tion that we already know is likely to sup­port those beliefs. Lib­er­als tend to read lib­eral news­pa­pers, and Con­ser­v­a­tives tend to read con­ser­v­a­tive newspapers.

2) Pri­macy Effects

The evi­dence that comes first mat­ters more than evi­dence pre­sented later. Trial lawyers are very aware of this phe­nom­e­non. Once jurors form a belief, that belief becomes resis­tant to counterevidence.

3) Polar­iza­tion

We tend to be less crit­i­cal of evi­dence that sup­ports our beliefs than evi­dence that runs counter to our beliefs. In an inter­est­ing exper­i­ment that demon­strates this phe­nom­e­non, researchers pre­sented indi­vid­u­als with mixed evi­dence on the effec­tive­ness of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment on reduc­ing crime. Even though the evi­dence on both sides of the issue was per­fectly bal­anced, indi­vid­u­als became stronger in their ini­tial posi­tion for or against cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. They rated evi­dence that sup­ported their ini­tial belief as more con­vinc­ing, and they found flaws more eas­ily in the evi­dence that coun­tered their ini­tial beliefs.

What Encour­ages Open-Mindedness?

Research sug­gests that peo­ple are more likely to be open-minded when they are not under time pres­sure. (Our gut reac­tions aren’t always the most accurate.)

Indi­vid­u­als are more likely to be open-minded when they believe they are mak­ing an impor­tant deci­sion. (This is when we start mak­ing lists of pros and cons, seek­ing the per­spec­tives of oth­ers, etc.)

Some research sug­gests that the way in which an idea is pre­sented can affect how open-minded some­one is when con­sid­er­ing it. For exam­ple, a typ­i­cal method of assess­ing open-mindedness in the lab­o­ra­tory is to ask a par­tic­i­pant to list argu­ments on both sides of a com­pli­cated issue (e.g., the death penalty, abor­tion, ani­mal test­ing). What typ­i­cally hap­pens is that indi­vid­u­als are able to list far more argu­ments on their favored side. How­ever, if the researcher then encour­ages the par­tic­i­pant to come up with more argu­ments on the oppos­ing side, most peo­ple are able to do so with­out too much dif­fi­culty. It seems that indi­vid­u­als have these counter-arguments stored in mem­ory but they don’t draw on them when first asked.

Exer­cises to Build Open-Mindedness

In my read­ings, I did not uncover any open-mindedness inter­ven­tions. But in the spirit of creativity/originality I con­sulted Cather­ine Freemire, LCSW [Cather­ine Freemire, LCSW, Bal­anced Life Coach­ing, ], a clin­i­cal ther­a­pist and pro­fes­sional coach renowned for her cre­ative think­ing. She came up with three exer­cises for build­ing open-mindedness which I think are def­i­nitely worth trying:

Select an emo­tion­ally charged, debat­able topic (e.g., abor­tion, prayer in school, health­care reform, the cur­rent war in Iraq) and take the oppo­site side from your own. Write five valid rea­sons to sup­port this view. (While typ­ing Catherine’s idea, I had a related one of my own: If you are con­ser­v­a­tive in your polit­i­cal beliefs, lis­ten to Al Frankin’s radio show; if you are lib­eral, lis­ten to Rush Lim­baugh! While you are lis­ten­ing, try to avoid the cog­ni­tive error of polar­iza­tion described above.)

1. Remem­ber a time when you were wronged by some­one in the past. Gen­er­ate three plau­si­ble rea­sons why this per­son inad­ver­tently or inten­tion­ally wronged you.

2. This one is for par­ents: Think of a topic that you con­sis­tently argue about with your teen or grown child. Now, take their posi­tion and think of 3 sub­stan­tial rea­sons why their point of view is valid. (This could also be done with spouses or any fam­ily mem­bers for that matter!)

© 2004 Authen­tic Hap­pi­ness Coach­ing. All rights reserved.


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.


Don’t Tell Me What To Do!

When I was about 17, my par­ents strongly objected to some of my friends. Yes, they were my friends and my par­ents didn’t know them nearly as well as I did oth­er­wise they would have agreed with my point of view. The more they protested about my spend­ing time with them the more time I invested into our friend­ship. To tell the truth – and after all these years I can – even then I intu­itively knew that they were right, but there was no way that I would ever do what they told me to do. My eager­ness and need to be right and the power of mak­ing my own deci­sions was sim­ply over­whelm­ing. Sure enough, most of those friends turned out either not to be such good friends as I imag­ined. Sev­eral of them became alco­holics, or ended up in jail. And, yes, I admit my par­ents were right. They knew what was good for me and they acted as respon­si­ble par­ents to the best of their abilities.

No-one-tells-me-what-to-do atti­tude is per­fectly nor­mal for teenagers any­where. Their need to break away from their par­ents’ influ­ence and prove them­selves as able to be suc­cess­ful and respon­si­ble in the “real world”, is healthy and nec­es­sary behav­ior for the devel­op­ment of a healthy psy­che. But as we mature this atti­tude may present a sig­nif­i­cant bar­rier to healthy rela­tion­ships and a happy life.

First, this kind of rebel behav­ior may result in push­ing away any­one who comes close to you. This is how it usu­ally works: You know from your own expe­ri­ence that it is very easy for you to see when oth­ers are about to do some­thing that will not serve them well. If that per­son is a stranger or just an acquain­tance you most likely will not open your mouth to stop them. But, if it is some­one you care about, you will do your utmost to point out the fal­lacy of his/her intended actions. So, when­ever you become resis­tant to the sug­ges­tions of the peo­ple who care about you, you are jump­ing into don’t-tell-me-what-to-do modus operandi. In other words, you are digress­ing into a teenager. I cer­tainly do not pro­pose that you should accept all rec­om­men­da­tions from every­one who cares about you. What I am sug­gest­ing is open­ness to the pos­si­bil­ity and will­ing­ness to con­sider other points of view.

This kind of resis­tance to do what peo­ple ask you to do (or not to do) is a sign of inse­cu­rity, low self-esteem, infe­ri­or­ity com­plex and such. The more often you exer­cise your “right” to do what you want, the more you alien­ate peo­ple around you and more you push your­self in the direc­tion of inse­cu­rity and low self-esteem. Choos­ing not to do what peo­ple ask you to do is just as much a free choice as accept­ing other people’s requests and sug­ges­tions. You have right to change your mind. The choice is always yours. Be respon­si­ble for it. By refus­ing other people’s requests because you did not gen­er­ate the idea, and think­ing that some­how by accept­ing it you will lose power, is a vic­tim behav­ior. The choice is always yours no mat­ter which way you go. In fact, by accept­ing, or at least con­sid­er­ing and being will­ing to dis­cuss it in order to learn more about other people’s point of view, you show gen­eros­ity, trust, respect, under­stand­ing and secu­rity in your own beliefs. Para­dox­i­cally, the more you are open to the pos­si­bil­ity of chang­ing your mind the more you gain self-esteem. Most cul­tures teach us that chang­ing your mind under any cir­cum­stances makes you a per­son of a weak char­ac­ter, wishy-washy and less respected by oth­ers. Con­sider the fol­low­ing: you decide to do some­thing against other’s rec­om­men­da­tion, and you fail. Who do you blame? Your­self, of course (low esteem). Do you learn from the expe­ri­ence? No, you don’t. You vow that you’ll do it bet­ter the next time using the same strat­egy of the don’t-tell-me-what-to-do vari­ety. Do you give credit to the per­son who sug­gested oth­er­wise? No, you resent him/her even more. What hap­pens if you suc­ceed? Do you give your­self credit? Rarely. It’s just you. You just made a good choice. That’s it. You were lucky this time (low self-esteem). Your rela­tion­ship with that per­son worsens.

Now con­sider that you take some­one else’s advice. If you fail, what do you think? You see, I told you so. I should have done it my way. (Higher opin­ion of your­self.) If you suc­ceed, you will be grate­ful to him/her and you will praise your­self for mak­ing a good choice of accept­ing the sug­ges­tion and exe­cut­ing it (high self-esteem). Your rela­tion­ship with that per­son will become stronger.

So, yes, just as you have right do to what you want to do, no mat­ter what advice you get, you also absolutely have right to change your mind to your ben­e­fit and take other people’s advice. These are the two equal sides of the same coin.

Again, by all means, you should NOT go around doing what every­one tells you to do (low self-esteem), but being able to make a sound choice free of the bag­gage from the past, or emo­tions that may pop up unbid­den at those moments of deci­sion. Some­times even “blind trust”, although nor­mally regarded as irre­spon­si­ble, is accept­able. Think of pro­fes­sional advi­sors, teacher, friends and oth­ers that you trusted blindly, maybe with mixed results, which, by the way, will always be mixed, i.e., we will always make occa­sional mis­takes whether we do what we want, or if we lis­ten to other’s advice. Mis­takes are a part of life. Learn to live with them. But at least with the absence of the don’t-tell-me-what-to-do atti­tude you will have hap­pier life, bet­ter rela­tion­ships and open end for self-growth and being a respon­si­ble wise adult instead of a per­pet­ual teenager.

Doing what oth­ers request from you, being a “yes” per­son, will pro­vide you with an oppor­tu­nity for ser­vice, whether it is gladly bring­ing your part­ner a cup of cof­fee*, or car­ing for the sick and elderly, or any­thing in between. We grow by serv­ing oth­ers. We serve our­selves by serv­ing oth­ers. We are social ani­mals. “Doing onto oth­ers what they want done to them­selves” is a higher motto for peace­ful rela­tion­ships and peace the world. It is an atti­tude of peace, not con­fronta­tion. It is about care, con­tri­bu­tion, pros­per­ity, effi­ciency, effec­tive­ness and self-growth from teenage-hood to adult­hood. Remem­ber the choice is always yours.

To be bound by our choices is not to have lost our freedom

but to have exer­cised it.”

Robert Brault


*See The Rela­tion­ship Saver: “Reverse the process”


How to…

Recently I received an e-mail from a per­son request­ing a refund because he had read many books on rela­tion­ships and that The Rela­tion­ship Saver was not help­ful.  A few oth­ers have com­plained that it’s not spe­cific enough. I’m sure that he is not the only one who has accu­mu­lated a lot of knowl­edge about sav­ing rela­tion­ships dur­ing a con­sid­er­able period of time, but has always been dis­ap­pointed because “it didn’t work”.

So, how is it that we are so knowl­edge­able yet can­not improve rela­tion­ships, no mat­ter what? The best exam­ple is over­weight peo­ple who want to lose weight. Most of them know exactly HOW to do it. The same applies to rela­tion­ships. We often know how to do it, yet we do noth­ing about it. And therein lies the problem.

Both The Rela­tion­ship Saver and The Game­less Rela­tion­ship are prac­ti­cal books of which there are two types: one, which spells out rules, and the other, which explains the prin­ci­ples. The Rela­tion­ship Saver is a “rule book”. It does not explain any under­ly­ing prin­ci­ples.  If they were included The Rela­tion­ship Saver would run to vol­umes. It is designed as a man­ual to be put to imme­di­ate use. Sav­ing a rela­tion­ship is often an urgent matter.

On the other hand, The Game­less Rela­tion­ship is a book about prin­ci­ples. Rules are cre­ated from prin­ci­ples, i.e., “Do not steal” is a rule, but it comes from a prin­ci­ple of hon­esty, cred­i­bil­ity, trust and integrity. A rule book is meant to be short  (look at The Ten Com­mand­ments).  To explain the under­ly­ing prin­ci­ples may take much longer.

How come we read all these books, we gather all the infor­ma­tion we can get, and our rela­tion­ship is still in trou­ble? I am sure by now you’ve guessed why. The magic word is ACTION, and not just any action. In order for a book to work, YOU must do the work. Sorry, there is no way around it. I wish there were a magic wand that you could just wave and your part­ner would change into a prince/princess and you would live hap­pily ever after. The only magic wand there is hap­pens to be the one you hold in the form of an ACTION that pro­duces a change in YOU. Here are some rules (with the under­ly­ing prin­ci­ples in paren­the­sis), which if you apply them, will not only improve your rela­tion­ships but will give you a much hap­pier life in general:

-    YOU must take action (actions are always in lan­guage).
–    YOU are the one who needs to change (peo­ple react to each other).
–    You can­not change other peo­ple (change can only be ini­ti­ated from inside and insist­ing that other peo­ple change makes you a vic­tim).
–    Keep your promises (integrity).
–    Do not gos­sip (integrity).
–    Do not judge, lest you be judged. (Your beliefs and inter­pre­ta­tions are NOT real­ity. They are only real to YOU.)
–    Leave the fol­low­ing phrases out of your vocab­u­lary:
o    I, you, he/she/it should (The world is what it is, not what you think it “should” be.
o    I’ll try. (“There is no try, you either do or not do” – Yoda from The Star Wars movie.)
o    I hope. (Hope is okay, but there is no action in it, there­fore no change.)

-    Love (uncon­di­tional love is the high­est level of self expression).

How do you fol­low the rules? By apply­ing them in action. Liv­ing by the rules is fine — many peo­ple do — but dis­cov­er­ing and becom­ing aware of the under­ly­ing prin­ci­ples and learn­ing from them makes you much more ver­sa­tile, secure and much more pow­er­ful; not to men­tion that lit­tle plea­sure of being right more often.

Dif­fer­ent peo­ple learn (or not) differently:

- Stu­pid peo­ple do not learn.
– Smart peo­ple learn from their own mis­takes.
– Clever peo­ple learn from other people’s mis­takes.
– Intel­li­gent peo­ple learn from PRINCIPLES.
(Dr. Lo)

So, how do you make the most of a prac­ti­cal book? Every sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent. Every sit­u­a­tion can be observed from dif­fer­ent points of view and thus inter­preted dif­fer­ently. No prac­ti­cal book, there­fore, can tell you exactly what to do in ANY par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion. You must make your own judg­ment accord­ing to your inter­pre­ta­tion of the cir­cum­stances accord­ing to the rules and prin­ci­ples learned from prac­ti­cal books. To the ques­tion I often get: whether The Rela­tion­ship Saver will get my love back, the answer is NO, The Rela­tion­ship Saver will do noth­ing for you.

Some peo­ple think that just by read­ing a book and hav­ing more knowl­edge about rela­tion­ships and/or if they are told exactly what to do in their par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stance they will save their rela­tion­ship. Rela­tion­ships are about being and not about doing. Doing is a direct result of being, not vice versa.  In other words, what you do is a direct result of who you are being in any par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion. YOU must walk the talk. YOU must learn about the changes you need to go through AND put them into prac­tice. And, YOU are the only per­son you CAN change, thus most likely chang­ing your rela­tion­ship and the qual­ity of your life. Do not give that power to ANYONE else.

Books have enor­mous power, but only if you coop­er­ate and if what you’ve read is reflected in your actions.



This is what the dic­tio­nary says about what we mean by Humil­ity:
humil­ity |(h)yoōˈmilitē|
a mod­est or low view of one’s own impor­tance; humbleness.

But is this really enough to grasp the whole impor­tance humil­ity plays, or does NOT play in our lives? Is being hum­ble a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive trait?

Hum­ble (v.)  and humil­i­ate (v.) sound sim­i­lar, but humil­i­ate empha­sizes shame and the loss of self-respect and usu­ally takes place in pub­lic, while hum­ble is a milder term imply­ing a low­er­ing of one’s pride or rank.

So, why and how is this impor­tant in a rela­tion­ship? Con­sider that what makes us who we are, is our world-view, our opin­ions, our ways of deter­min­ing what’s true and what’s not. So how do we deter­mine what is true in a con­ver­sa­tion? What we do is we com­pare what we hear or see with what we already know and see how it is the same or dif­fer­ent from our past expe­ri­ence. Also, we check our feel­ings to see if we like it or not. That is basi­cally how we deter­mine what is true and real and what is not. This is all very well for a 5-year-old, but unac­cept­able for a healthy fully devel­oped adult. A five-year-old will say that he does not like broc­coli because it is yucky. What he does not see is that it is not that broc­coli is yucky; in fact, quite the oppo­site is true. He calls broc­coli ”yucky” because he doesn’t like it. He, of course, does not see it that way. He thinks that any­one who likes broc­coli has no taste to say the least. This is what we call “onto­log­i­cal arro­gance”. Ontol­ogy is the branch of phi­los­o­phy that stud­ies the nature of real­ity. Onto­log­i­cal arro­gance is the belief that your per­spec­tive is priv­i­leged, that your way is the only way to inter­pret a sit­u­a­tion. While onto­log­i­cal arro­gance is nor­mal and even cute in chil­dren, it is much less charm­ing in adults.

In charged sit­u­a­tions most of us assume that we see things as they are; that is not so. We actu­ally see things as they appear to us. Check out for your­self. When was the last time that you met an “idiot” who thought exactly like you do? Do you believe peo­ple dis­agree with you because they are “idiots”? Or do you call them “idiots” because they dis­agree with you? Do you think your spouse is push­ing your but­tons and wants to make you mad on pur­pose? Or do you think that because you do not like what they have to say and the way they say it they seem to “push your but­tons” on purpose?

The oppo­site of arro­gance is humil­ity. Humil­ity has the root in Latin word humus, mean­ing ground. Onto­log­i­cal humil­ity, on the other hand, is the acknowl­edg­ment that you do not have a spe­cial claim on real­ity or truth, that oth­ers have an equally valid per­spec­tive deserv­ing respect and con­sid­er­a­tion. (Hence chap­ter two in The Rela­tion­ship Saver about agree­ing with your part­ner.) Acknowl­edge that there are many ways to look at the world. Some are more prac­ti­cal and ”true” for you than oth­ers. Nev­er­the­less, they are only views. They are never objec­tive truths; they are always inter­pre­ta­tions, per­sonal maps built by our lim­ited senses pass­ing from our indi­vid­ual and unique fil­ter woven from our past expe­ri­ences. It never even resem­bles THE truth. The fact that we agree about any­thing with any­one is only coin­ci­den­tal and it is always a prod­uct of our will­ing­ness to agree. It does not make it more real or truth­ful though. It is easy and nat­ural for us to dis­agree, to push our truth as the right one. It is sweet to be right and that oth­ers see the world as we do. Our arro­gance in this respect has no bounds. Onto­log­i­cal humil­ity makes sense intel­lec­tu­ally, but it is not the nat­ural atti­tude of a human being. It requires, at least, the cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment of a six-year-old.

Onto­log­i­cal humil­ity does not mean that you have to dis­re­gard your own per­spec­tive. It is per­fectly hum­ble to state that the cir­cum­stances are “prob­lem­atic” as long as you add “for me”. That acknowl­edges that the same cir­cum­stances may not appear prob­lem­atic “to you”.

There are times when you can “agree to dis­agree” and at other times you will need to bring the con­ver­sa­tion to some agree­ment. But we’ll talk about that some other time. Stay tuned and try to behave as if you are at least six.

By the way, I saw a great bumper sticker yes­ter­day: “You don’t have to believe every­thing you think.”



Truth, Opinions and Points of View

I am sure you’ve had a lot of expe­ri­ences where your opin­ion about some­thing was com­pletely dif­fer­ent to other people’s point of view. It can be quite frus­trat­ing to have some­one argue against what you know to be true. When­ever some­one dis­agrees with your point of view you are quite cer­tain that that per­son either does not under­stand, is stu­pid, not as well informed as you are, did not have the expe­ri­ence you’ve had or that he knows that you are right, but does not want to admit it. All these jus­ti­fi­ca­tions – and feel free to add your own – are the proof that your point of view is cor­rect and that other peo­ple are at least wrong if not down­right delu­sional. So how is it pos­si­ble that other peo­ple do not see some­thing that is so obvi­ous to you? How can they be so short­sighted or illog­i­cal, lack com­pas­sion or love, be so incon­sid­er­ate and cruel or what­ever the par­tic­u­lar case may be? Some­times you find your­self won­der­ing whether the whole world has gone mad or if it is just you.

In order to be able to explain this phe­nom­e­non we must first dis­tin­guish what we are talk­ing about, i.e. , point of view and opin­ion. Def­i­n­i­tions from the dic­tio­nary may be of assis­tance here:

opin­ion |əˈpinyən|


a view or judg­ment formed about some­thing, not nec­es­sar­ily based on fact or knowl­edge : I’m writ­ing to voice my opin­ion on an issue of great impor­tance | that, in my opin­ion, is dead right.

the beliefs or views of a large num­ber or major­ity of peo­ple about a par­tic­u­lar thing : the chang­ing cli­mate of opinion.

( opin­ion of) an esti­ma­tion of the qual­ity or worth of some­one or some­thing : I had a higher opin­ion of myself than I deserved.

a for­mal state­ment of advice by an expert on a pro­fes­sional mat­ter : seek­ing a sec­ond opin­ion from a specialist.

Law a for­mal state­ment of rea­sons for a judg­ment given.

Law a lawyer’s advice on the mer­its of a case.


be of the opin­ion that believe or main­tain that : econ­o­mists are of the opin­ion that the econ­omy could contract.

a mat­ter of opin­ion some­thing not capa­ble of being proven either way.

ORIGIN Mid­dle Eng­lish : via Old French from Latin opinio(n-), from the stem of opinari ‘think, believe.’


When you give your opin­ion on some­thing, you offer a con­clu­sion or a judg­ment that, although it may be open to ques­tion, seems true or prob­a­ble to you at the time (: she was known for her strong opin­ions on women in the work­place).

A view is an opin­ion that is affected by your per­sonal feel­ings or biases (: his views on life were essen­tially opti­mistic), while a sen­ti­ment is a more or less set­tled opin­ion that may still be col­ored by emo­tion (: her sen­ti­ments on aging were shared by many other women approach­ing fifty).

A belief dif­fers from an opin­ion or a view in that it is not nec­es­sar­ily the cre­ation of the per­son who holds it; the empha­sis here is on the men­tal accep­tance of an idea, a propo­si­tion, or a doc­trine and on the assur­ance of its truth (: reli­gious beliefs; his belief in the power of the body to heal itself).

A con­vic­tion is a firmly held and unshak­able belief whose truth is not doubted (: she could not be swayed in her con­vic­tions), while a per­sua­sion (in this sense) is a strong belief that is unshak­able because you want to believe that it’s true rather than because there is evi­dence prov­ing it so (: she was of the per­sua­sion that he was inno­cent).

As you might have noticed, nowhere in these def­i­n­i­tions can you find that your opin­ion equals the truth. I heard so many peo­ple say, “It’s my truth”, and they leave it at that, as if their truth some­how becomes true and just as valid as The Truth itself. Of course they find many rea­sons and other opin­ions that attempt to jus­tify their opin­ion, but the bot­tom line is that all these rea­sons and excuses are just plau­si­ble sto­ries that often prove noth­ing. In fact it still boils down to no more that mere over­rated opin­ion. So how do you dis­tin­guish between truth and opin­ion? Let’s start by rec­og­niz­ing that we rarely come face to face with the truth. Objec­tive truth is a very elu­sive con­cept, and it is a con­cept because “the truth” does not exist in the mate­r­ial world. It is always and only an INTERPRETATION and MEANING that we give to any par­tic­u­lar event. Events have no mean­ings and inter­pre­ta­tions imbed­ded in them, they are not an inte­gral part of ANY event. Inter­pre­ta­tions and mean­ings are fully and wholly gen­er­ated by human minds and do not exist in nature per se. (Of course this is only my opin­ion.) Nev­er­the­less, like any­thing else, our opin­ions serve a very use­ful role in our lives and like any tool they can be used or abused. Now, how do you know if your opin­ions serve you or not? This is eas­ier said than done, but every bit worth prac­tic­ing. Self-awareness is the first step. Being con­scious and able to per­ceive your behav­ior when you are adamantly assert­ing that your opin­ion is the cor­rect one may make you aware of the futil­ity of your approach to the sit­u­a­tion and open your eyes to other pos­si­bil­i­ties and more effi­cient and effec­tive ways to deal with the sit­u­a­tion. Under­stand­ing that the inter­pre­ta­tions and beliefs we hold so dear come from our past expe­ri­ences and have become part of our per­son­al­i­ties and which we can­not lightly dis­miss, may help us rec­og­nize that other people’s opinions/truths as well as our own are just dif­fer­ent points of view. A point of view is just that: a point from which we view the world. Prob­lems arise when we neglect to rec­og­nize that from the point we see the world or an issue, has one major short­com­ing: we do not see the very point from which we make our obser­va­tion because we are stand­ing on it. Rec­og­niz­ing that there can be more than one point from which the world can be observed and thus be seen in a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive will allow us to be more flex­i­ble in our rela­tion­ships with others.

In con­clu­sion, remem­ber that many truths through­out his­tory were debunked and nowa­days make no sense even to a child but in the past were held as irrefutable truths. Think of the earth as being the flat cen­ter of the uni­verse. How about all the gods of ancient Greece and Rome? Newton’s physics is not the final word on our uni­verse any more either. At a more mun­dane level, you may find that what­ever you thought to be true about your par­ents, your part­ner or your chil­dren may not be so, for the time being anyway.

From all this you may be tempted to come to the con­clu­sion that there are many truths and that they all may be equal. That cer­tainly is not so. Some truths are more equal than oth­ers or some opin­ions are bet­ter than oth­ers. Cer­tain truths may be more true to some than to oth­ers depend­ing on the con­text because con­text in which opin­ions and “truths” arise is deci­sive. We’ll talk about con­text some other time. Stay tuned.



I Said I Was Sorry

by Mark Gun­gor on Octo­ber 5th, 2009

In my Laugh Your Way to a Bet­ter Mar­riage sem­i­nar I explain in detail how a man’s brain tends to com­part­men­tal­ize things. It’s like men have sep­a­rate boxes in their heads for every­thing: money, sex, kids, wife, in-laws, etc. And for a guy these boxes don’t touch. He thinks about one thing at a time and then moves on to the next thing since one box isn’t con­nected to another.

Then I go on to explain how a woman’s brain is like a big ball of wire where every­thing is con­nected to every­thing and there is no com­part­men­tal­iz­ing at all. Money can be con­nected to the in-laws and sex can be con­nected to the kids. Things can run together very eas­ily in a woman’s brain.

These two very oppo­site ways of think­ing and pro­cess­ing cause men and women to com­mu­ni­cate in very dif­fer­ent ways. There is one area this is par­tic­u­larly evi­dent and often problematic–the apol­ogy. Because men have this unique abil­ity to com­part­men­tal­ize, a guy can go to his “apol­ogy box”, say he’s sorry for some­thing he did, close that box and then move on to the next task or thing to think about. In his mind he took care of it, he said he was sorry, it’s done and life goes on.

Not so for a woman. When she has been crossed or hurt for some rea­son, the con­nec­tions in her brain make it impos­si­ble to com­part­men­tal­ize. She may attach all sorts of rea­sons, feel­ings, and ideas to that one inci­dent. While her hus­band has moved on to other ter­ri­tory, she hasn’t because it may take her some time to process her emo­tions and thoughts. So when a woman is still upset, sad or hurt for a cou­ple of days (some­times weeks depend­ing on the infrac­tion) it is often a puz­zle to the man. Guys will then per­ceive their wives as hold­ing onto a grudge, being unfor­giv­ing and unwill­ing to move on, and they can become very frus­trated. After all, he said he was sorry, why can’t she just get past it?

Because of the way women are wired with all these con­nec­tions in their brains, it’s more dif­fi­cult for them to get past the hurt. It’s actu­ally a really good thing for you guys because this is what allows her to put up with your non­sense! You mess up and say and do hurt­ful things and she’s still there because women have this abil­ity to form deep con­nec­tions. It truly works for men this way, but when you do some­thing extremely hurt­ful, it works against you; you will have to fix it, and that may take some time.

I hear tales all the time of men who have done hurt­ful things—huge things like hav­ing an affair or smaller things like say­ing some­thing very mean and spiteful—and then they say, “I’m sorry” and expect it all to go away. When it doesn’t these guys get upset and throw it back on their wives because his wife “can’t get over it”. It just doesn’t work that way for women. Men need to learn that push­ing her to “move on” isn’t the answer. The answer is for you to own the prob­lem that you created.

It’s not her prob­lem of unfor­give­ness. It’s not that she won’t accept your apol­ogy. She’s still hurt­ing and it’s going to take some time for her to get over it. Men see absolutely no con­nec­tion between the offense and the con­tin­ued emo­tions. It’s like they dropped the atomic bomb but don’t real­ize that there is fall­out beyond the ini­tial explo­sion that they will have to keep clean­ing up and deal­ing with. Men, when you hurt your wife and you see she’s still deal­ing with it, don’t you dare turn that around and put it on her. You look at your wife and say, “I see you are still hurt­ing. I under­stand this is still painful. I real­ize I did this to you. I’m sorry.” Then shut up! Don’t defend your­self, make excuses or blame her. Every time you see it, you own it. Even if you have to do it a 100 times. That’s just the way it is.

Remem­ber guys, when it comes to apolo­gies, there is no “apol­ogy box” in your wife’s brain. Don’t make the mis­take of think­ing or say­ing, “I said I was sorry! Just move on!” Don’t put the rap on her, or she will end up think­ing you are not sorry at all.


Responsibility In Relationships II

What respon­si­bil­ity means in a rela­tion­ship and how we avoid being respon­si­ble unbe­knownst to us. In The Rela­tion­ship Saver and else­where I men­tioned that the only effec­tive way to be respon­si­ble is to take 100% respon­si­bil­ity for your rela­tion­ship. How do you know if you are not being 100% respon­si­ble? Well, there are a few behav­iors that once you rec­og­nize them they will give you a pretty good idea of how respon­si­ble you are. In the coach­ing com­mu­nity we call it RACKETS. What it means is that we pre­tend we are doing the right thing when in fact there is a much more insid­i­ous rea­son for our action:  avoid­ing respon­si­bil­ity at all costs.

And the costs are high. But first, let’s see what a racket is and deal with what we get out of what is called “run­ning a racket.” The def­i­n­i­tion of a racket is: A fixed way of being plus a per­sis­tent complaint.

What is it that you do and what do you get out of run­ning a racket?
–    You are right and your part­ner is wrong.
Read the arti­cle “On Being Right”
–    You try to dom­i­nate or avoid dom­i­na­tion of a sit­u­a­tion or your part­ner.
This may include pres­sure, bul­ly­ing, insist­ing on your point of view, all sub­tle passive/aggressive behav­iors, etc., as well as the “don’t tell me what to do” syn­drome, even avoid­ing the dom­i­na­tion of your own promises. (Read the arti­cle on Integrity In Rela­tion­ships)
–    Your actions are always jus­ti­fied (by you, of course) and your partner’s actions and/or opin­ions are by default inval­i­dated.
We judge oth­ers by their actions. We judge our­selves by our inten­tions.
In short, what we get out of run­ning a racket is avoid respon­si­bil­ity and by default lose power.

You may notice that for most peo­ple this is a default behav­ior, we do not know any dif­fer­ent. But, the big ques­tion is: are we aware of the COST? Do you know what the costs are? I bet you don’t — these are very obvi­ous so here they are:
–    Love and inti­macy
Love starts with com­plete accep­tance of your part­ner (read the arti­cle on Love In Rela­tion­ships in this blog) and inti­macy is free­dom and the abil­ity to safely com­mu­ni­cate what­ever you are present to at the moment
–    Full self-expression
This means being free to be your­self at your best with­out hav­ing to jus­tify, defend, sur­vive, or in any way com­pro­mise your integrity (read the arti­cle on Integrity In Rela­tion­ships)
–    Health and vital­ity
You know how you feel when your rela­tion­ship isn’t work­ing. It can lit­er­ally make you sick. Depres­sion is another option. Vital­ity is nonexistent.

And now that you know what it costs you to run a racket you may try to become more aware of what comes out of your mouth pre­ceded by your thoughts. In order to become aware here is how to rec­og­nize if you are run­ning a racket or not:  When­ever you are frus­trated or upset and that state of mind is famil­iar to you, you think, “it always hap­pens,” you may be sure that you are run­ning a racket.

Run­ning a racket and thus pass­ing on the respon­si­bil­ity to oth­ers, cir­cum­stances and/or the envi­ron­ment is the best way to lose power and con­trol of your life and a say-so in your relationship.

Please also note that run­ning a racket is an instinc­tual, knee-jerk reac­tion and totally counter-intuitive. Nev­er­the­less, it is a nec­es­sary com­po­nent of your hap­pi­ness in a happy and game­less rela­tion­ship to be prac­ticed on a moment-to-moment basis until it becomes your sec­ond nature and you can stop a racket in its tracks, even before it man­i­fests itself in lan­guage and behavior.

Absence of rack­ets in your life guar­an­tees hap­pier per­sonal life, stronger rela­tion­ships, huge leaps for­ward in your per­sonal devel­op­ment and valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to others.





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