“I told you I was sick…” is reportedly on the gravestone of WC Fields. He was right, it seems.
The urge to “be right” is conditioned into us from the time we start school – to be right, get it right, make the right move.
There are certainly times when getting it right is critical; a matter of life and death – for example in medicine, law, transport, welfare and many other areas where health, safety & wellbeing are critical.
However many disputes, family squabbles and petty arguments are borne from our need to be right.
When we believe we are right, then it automatically places others in the wrong.
I would say that “being right” is based on a number of factors which we often don’t consider…
– cultural and social norms – whatever is generally held to be the preferred way of behaving; for example in the western world it is generally acceptable for people to shake hands in greeting; in some societies and cultures, this is not acceptable.
– information at a point in time – while certain types of information are thought to be incontrovertible, such as the earth being a sphere (more or less), this is based on what we know at a particular point; at one time we did think the earth was flat (and that the sun revolved around us) – some people still do!
– personal beliefs, expectations, loyalties, intuition – many of our most passionate arguments are based on our own personal beliefs about ourselves and others, our personal tastes of what we like and dislike, what we expect of other people and situations, and our own gut instinct and intuition – so we argue about which version of “Imagine” might be better than John Lennon’s original. Is it really worth arguing over?
We can be so conditioned to “being right” that we ignore the views of others, railroad decisions, cover our tracks and engage in all kinds of dysfunctional behaviour – even when we decide that perhaps we should change our mind, we are reluctant to “stand down”, “do a u- turn”, “eat humble pie”.
Even at home, the parent who argues with a child will admit to imposing our point of view purely to get the upper hand – it’s a matter of pride and ego, and “being in control”.
We waste a lot of energy arguing who is right, and therefore who is wrong, but perhaps in the process of the argument, we might learn something if we are prepared to be open minded, listen to alternatives and let go of having the last word. But I may be wrong.
Liz Barron – Realize Coaching – http://www.realize.ie
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Oh and the day after I drafted this article I found this on TED Talks on being Wrong!http://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong.html