Mark Twain put his finger on the age-old problem of needing to be right when he observed, "it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain't so."
Take a moment and reflect on your relationships at work and at home and ask yourself, "how much does the 'I’m right, you’re wrong' dynamic play out in my everyday interactions?"
Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, will find this dynamic a familiar companion in face-to-face conversations, on the phone or in emails and (especially) online. Either unconsciously or consciously, we often find ourselves in situations where we feel we need to be right. And not only do we need to be right, but to be right we need to make the other party be or feel wrong.
Our need to feel safe and secure
Our ego personality is the culprit here as it wants and needs to feel strong, safe and secure. But when the shoe is on the other foot and we experience the feeling of being wrong, our ego personality reacts to leave us feeling fearful, stupid, insecure, deficient small and/or invisible.
The deal is that someone always has to lose in this "win-lose" dynamic. And, needing to win, or experiencing being wrong, we find ourselves enmeshed in interpersonal relationships characterized by mistrust, conflict, competition, frustration, anger or sadness, all of which are based on fear.
Of course, the solution for this dynamic is not to live in a world of polarity and choosing instead a world of inclusion. That means rejecting ‘right vs. wrong’ and ‘either/or’ in favour of ‘both/and’.
The challenge for our ego is how to relate to others in a way that lets us transcend the personal win-lose dynamic and focus on commonalities. In the world of the ego, it’s all about being separate and independent, "me vs. you". In the world of commonality, community and inclusion, it’s all about "you and me". It's win-win. It's about "we."
The difficulty this poses for many of us begs some fundamental questions:
"What excuse am I using to rationalize and justify a win-lose, me vs. you dynamic that creates disconnection and disaffection?"
"Why can’t I feel content about being right about something without needing to make someone else feel or be wrong?"
"Why do I live from an 'I’d rather be right than happy' perspective much of the time?"
- 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?
- How do I feel when I am "wrong?" Why do I feel this way?
- What was it like to be "right" and "wrong" when I was growing up? How does this dynamic play out now in my adult life - at work, at home and at play?
- Would I rather be right than happy? Honestly.
The truth is that while we are innately heart-felt, spiritual beings, we are also human and possess egos. Somewhere along the path of our growth, we separated from the heart-felt and interconnected aspects of our being-ness and began to focus on being separate from one another, in other words, on the human and ego aspects of our personalities. In our early development, we were indoctrinated with beliefs, assumptions, expectations, perceptions and world views that we identified with and took on to be "me."
As a result, we live in a world of folks who have assorted beliefs and opinions. That's as it should be. But when we live life from an ego-directed place, then it becomes "all about me". In order to feel safe and secure, our initial reaction to someone else's different beliefs or opinions is fear - a fear of losing "me", a fear that "me" is being threatened. So we conduct our relationships based on our need to be right because being right means that I can be "me". That’s why not being "me" (feeling I am "wrong") is a very threatening proposition for many people.
When we're able to let go of our need to be right, we can start to live in a way that encourages inner peace, well-being, harmony and connectivity and to create more conscious, honest, trusting, ‘win-win’ relationships.
So as you move through your day, try to take the time to observe your underlying motivations when you find yourself engaged in win-lose conversations. Do you need to "win" for selfish, manipulative or fearful reasons? And what is your intention when engaged in win-lose interactions? Why?