Thursday, May 28, 2009

The need to be right means being crippled by your own judgment

by Richard L. Weaver II

Sitting in the barber’s chair, we (my barber and I) overheard a conversation between two gentlemen sitting in nearby chairs. The two gentlemen were discussing political issues, and their discussion began as a friendly, casual conversation that involved the sharing of opinions. What was so intriguing was how quickly their voices rose and the escalation from pleasantness to hostility stunned others in the barbershop as each man tried to prove the other wrong and himself, right. Suddenly, noticing that everyone in the shop was listening, they cut their conversation off. This was one example of how the need to be right is one of the most prevalent needs in our society today.

We all have a touch of the need to be right and control others, and we all have areas of self-righteousness where we believe we know better than others. The need to be right is probably learned early in life when we did not have power and someone else was critical, angry, or abusive with us. When we observe that mean adults or bullies who are the loudest or the angriest often get their way, or that putting power trips on others is rewarded, we rationalize that it’s okay, and soon it becomes habitual behavior whenever we feel threatened.

Sometimes we feel the need to be right no matter what the circumstances or even the consequences. Our egos become so enmeshed in the moment that it can feel like we’re defending our life, and we no longer hear anything the other person is saying. The amount of emotional energy exerted can be enormous, and it can even turn a good day into a rotten one all in the name of being right.

If you have the need to be right, consider the fact that we are all fallible human beings viewing the world through our own filter systems. Every belief, opinion, or observation is affected by our values, needs, goals, interests, other beliefs, attitudes, expectations, wants, knowledge, feelings, language, education, and experience. What is the likelihood any two people would share the same view of the world? We are all at different points on our paths and depending on how far apart those points are, often determines how easily our feathers will get ruffled by someone else’s beliefs.

The problem with the need to always be right is the way it manifests itself in our daily behavior. Because of the way it is seen by others, it is likely to negatively affect, even destroy, relationships. The more we display a rigidity of thought, the more anger and disapproval we are likely to experience. The need to always be right is revealed in our inability to say “I don’t know” or “I was wrong,” a high need to expect others to see things our way, feeling threatened when new ideas come from others, fear of hearing new information that threatens our beliefs, fear of letting go (not being in control), a preoccupation with winning approval from others, our need to be seen as tough, powerful, and strong, our pride at always being rational and logical, discomfort in expressing sensitive feelings, shame and fear of being perceived as vulnerable and insecure, belief that others who disagree should “just get over it,” and use of charm, anger, withdrawal, or blaming to settle arguments.

Freud labeled the fear of being wrong “omnipotence of thought.” He considered it a psychological defense to avoid inner anxiety and a sense of becoming fragmented when there is disagreement.

The reason some people feel the need to be right all the time is that it validates their self worth and self confidence. Often, these people are preoccupied with imagined shortcomings of others and perceived attacks from them. Feeling betrayed by others, they justify their criticizing and blaming of others to avoid the insight that they themselves might be in error. Because of the fear of losing power, they use anger to keep others from asserting themselves.

The beauty in all of this is that we are not confined to nor restrained within “the need to be right” prison. Change is possible. The questions we need to ask ourselves are, “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?” “Do I want to get my way, or do I want to feel closeness with others?” or “Do I want to think about me, or do I want to think about we?” Often, our need to be right transforms us into a person we don’t want to be: an arrogant, self-righteous, sanctimonious, narrow-minded, “I know better than you” personality that drives people away.

“I always need to be right” shuts the door to new knowledge, refuses to consider the opinions of others, and obliterates new ideas. Edward de Bono, one of our greatest thinkers, said, “The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas. It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong than to be always right by having no ideas at all.”

The first step to overcoming the need to be right may be the most difficult. We have to become aware of our thoughts, and ask the right questions. Suppose you are in a relationship, and you are always arguing with your spouse. The questions are: “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?” “Do I want to be always right, or do I want to be part of a loving relationship?” “Do I want to be right and hurtful, or do I want to be accepting and caring?

The second step is to become more open-minded — willing to embrace the ideas of others. When others speak, don’t look for points to disagree with; look for wisdom you can add to your own. Try not to interrupt when others speak. Allow people to have their say, and consider it an interesting perspective instead of one that is all wrong and just plain ignorant. Let them know it’s an interesting way to see something. Tell them you never thought of it that way. When you disagree, summarize the other’s point of view first, before presenting your own.

As you control your need to be right, you will get in touch with your feelings, learn to deal appropriately with things that upset you, develop your intuitive, creative side, learn to deal with anxious feelings, handle the challenges others bring up, become more self-sufficient, open up new possibilities, have more energy to spend on important things, and discover the fun in life. As a result, your self-esteem will soar. Ralph Marston, writer and publisher of The Daily Motivator, writes, “Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You’re able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment.”


At ResultsThroughIntegrity , Peter G. Vajda, in his essay, “Do you need to be right?,” offers a short reflective essay that ends with the following questions for self-reflection: What will happen if I let go of my need to be right? What won’t happen if I let go of my need to be right? What will happen if I don’t let go of my need to be right? What won’t happen if I don’t let go of my need to be right? What is threatening to me about not being right? Do I feel enslaved by a need to be right? If so, how does this feeling affect me? Affect others? How do I feel when I am “wrong?” Why do I feel this way?
How do I deal with the “unknown?” Would you rather be right or happy?

At , Marlene has an excellent essay that covers the following topics: 1) Mr. Right, 2) The Need To Be Right - What Does It Mean? 3) Inflexible Thinking, 4) Give Up the Mr. Right mentality!, and 5) Quotes on Being Right.

At , the essay by Stephen Hopson Is called, “How to Deal With Difficult People,” in which Hopson offers readers 7 things to do in the presence of a difficult person. The suggestions are specific, to the point, and practical.


Copyright May, 2009 - And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.

1 comment:

  1. As I said last week: "You're wrong." Now, not only do I feel better about myself, I also know that my judgment is correct.


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