Don’t ever, ever play Scrabble with my friend Amy. The game will last an eternity, as she will challenge each and every word any opponent lays down that even borders on complex or uncommon. To make things worse, if an opponent challenges her, she becomes furious. I believe her second husband divorced her over a Scrabble game.
Who am I kidding? It’s not just Scrabble, it’s everything. She used to carry a dictionary in her purse until Smartphones came along. Again, if a question was raised, Amy was there to answer it. If anyone challenged her answer, she would whip proof out of her purse like a pistol in a showdown. The type of trivia and inconsequential miscellanea she would claim hard fast knowledge over was mind-boggling; everything from the birthplace of the twelfth Dalai Lama to whether a roll of toilet paper should spool from the top or the bottom.
Relationship counselors consider the need to be right among the top five relationship crimes. This should come as no surprise as, when you declare yourself ‘right,’ you are effectively declaring the other person ‘wrong.’ When you tell your partner he or she is ‘wrong,’ you are belittling that person, dismissing his or her perspective (as well as feelings) and failing to communicate. I wish it were just my friend Amy who demonstrated this little quirk. The terrible truth, though, is that it’s not just Amy and it’s not just a little quirk. Many of us are guilty of this damaging need to be right.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all been guilty of needing to be right at one point or another.
Why do we do this to our loved ones and, ultimately, to ourselves?
What Does Being Right Get You?
What are you looking for in being right? Does being right make you feel superior? How long does the emotional high from a sense of superiority last? Long enough to warrant threatening what could otherwise be an enduring relationship?
Writer Douglas Adams said “I’d far rather be happy than right any day.” Adams seems to be acknowledging the fact that the ego boost you get from being right is a fleeting one and can cost you your happiness as you alienate yourself from those around you.
Closing the doors of your mind to options, variety and a broad perspective is damaging to relationships, to your mental outlook, to your creativity and your ability to relate with others. The close-mindedness instantly shuts down the number one ingredient in any working relationship: communication.
The Joy Of Being Wrong
Often this need to be right derives from a very common, very human emotion: fear. The fear of being wrong, the fear of having believed in something and having someone challenge it, the fear that being proven wrong will shout out to the world what we’ve suspected all along: that we are inferior on some level, that we’re not good enough.
As absurd as it may sound, being wrong can be a gift. For one thing, it is an opportunity to experience a wider perspective, rather than dwelling in the confines of our own mental framework. Furthermore, being wrong gives you a chance to practice laughing at yourself and learning something new. Being wrong opens doors to creativity that the need to be right would leave closed and locked. Often success, whether it’s found in a relationship or in the happy factor of your life in general, is found behind those closed doors.
No One Likes A Know-it-all
The philosopher Albert Camus said that ‘the need to be right is the sign of a vulgar mind.’ The definition of ‘vulgar’ is lack of sophistication. In other words, Camus may have been trying to say that having to always be right is ‘bad manners.’ As they say, the epitome of good manners is the ability to make the people around you feel comfortable; telling people they are wrong usually rubs folks the wrong way.
I wasn’t joking when, above, I mentioned that my friend’s husband divorced her over a Scrabble game. Of course, it wasn’t the fact that his spelling of the word ‘bazaar’ versus ‘bizarre’ incited about forty-five minutes of circuitous argument between them. The Scrabble game, and her need to prove that she knew the definition of each spelling and he didn’t was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was her need to be right and worse, her need that he be wrong, that pushed him over the edge and away from her. Amy’s need to be right destroyed the joy and discovery that would otherwise come with a relationship based on trust and communication.
In an inspiring commencement speech to graduates of the University of the Arts Philadelphia, beloved writer Neil Gaiman encouraged the audience to “Make interesting mistakes. Make glorious mistakes. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.”
Tips On Allowing Yourself To Be Wrong
• Practice letting go of your ego
• Try to see the situation through the other person’s eyes
• Be INTERESTED in the other person’s perspective, not DEFENSIVE towards it
• Realize and admit that nobody is perfect, not even you
• Listen and give the other person your full attention
• Celebrate the possibilities and chances for growth that come with being wrong!
“Embrace your fear of failure,” Gaiman continued. “Make peace with the impostor syndrome that comes with success. Never be afraid of being wrong.”
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