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.

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Comments (1)

Bill

November 22nd, 2016 at 4:39 PM    


Kinda of crazy. I just went through a ter­ri­ble divorce from a rela­tion­ship that we both abused each other men­tally and one thing I really picked up on for my next rela­tion­ship is to tell her what I heard not what she said. It is amaz­ing how we inter­pret things.

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