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!