We are taught at a young age that right equals “good” and “right” often receives a reward. When in school we answers questions correctly, we get good grades and our parents are proud of us (maybe even buy us an ice cream!). When we’re older, when we work hard and do “right” by the company, we get recognition and possibly a raise in salary. So “right” is ALWAYS good …. Right?
Well yes… and no. There are some people who are obsessed with being right all the time. I’m sure you’ve experienced these type of people and… embarrassingly so, to tell you the truth I myself used to think it was better to be right than “wrong” or to make a mistake or to look stupid [or fill in your own blank]. That was until I learned that if you have to prove that you are right at the sacrifice of a relationship or hurting someone’s feelings – it’s not good and there is no reward for anyone.
You can be 100% correct, 100% justified, 100% good intentions, or 100% in authority. But what good is it if it causes you: to sleep on the couch, lose your job, lose a marriage, lose a friendship, hurt the feelings of someone you love, embarrass yourself, causes you to be mean, lose loyalty to those who report to you, etc? And what seems to be even worse than DEATH is when you fight so hard to prove how right you are only to find out later on that you actually were (in fact) wrong! Now you have ruined relationships AND you feel like a moron!
So what to do? Before engaging, ask these questions (in no particular order):
o How receptive am I to hear my opposite’s points?
o How receptive is my opposite to hear my points?
If the answer is “not very” to either of these questions, then you (or they) are more concerned with being heard than actually resolving any issue. Until you are both receptive, there really is no point continuing to launch your opinions/argument/facts missiles at each other. Believe it or not, you will only inflict damage and no good can come from it.
o Why am I in this debate?
o Is there a “spoil to this war”?
o No matter how right I am, is there a cost?
o Is the cost greater/less than the reward?
If the only reward is to prove that you are [smarter, better, more awesome, - fill in your compliment of choice] , then perhaps your ego needs a re-check. People who are completely confident in themselves do not see a need to prove to anyone they are right. They allow time to pass and let their opposite to see the err in their thinking by themselves.
o Is it beneficial to raise how “right” I am now or maybe later?
o Is it necessary to raise this debate in a crowd/meeting/or in front of other people?
o Would it be better (for everyone or situation) to take this person aside later alone to speak to them?
o Am I rushing to get my point across where I’m not allowing my opposite to speak or get a word in edge-wise?
Unless life or death, it may not be so important to voice how right you are immediately. This may be a surprise to you... but silence does not mean people concede to your ideas. Sometimes silence means they are being more strategic in voicing their opinion or they know you don’t care about what they are saying.
o How emotionally charged is each person in this debate?
o If either party is emotional, do you know why or what’s behind the emotion?
o If emotions are high for either party, is it possible to wait until both are calm to talk later?
o Am I reacting more to the emotions of my opposite rather than my argument?
o Am I being respectful to this other human being? Are they being respectful to me?
If you really are right, there is be no need to be emotional (nor smug either). I have found the more emotional someone is about their argument, the less secure they are certain of the subject or they are or perhaps they are too invested in changing your opinion to theirs regardless of the consequences. In any debate, it is important to be respectful, compassionate, and calm even if you strongly disagree with your opposite.
You may notice that in most of these questions, it is really an personal ego check. I have found that someone who needs to be right immediately, rushing to make their argument, who doesn’t care if their opposite is receptive, is not interested in hearing another person’s point of view, and must resolve everything with high emotion… is someone who is either very insecure in themselves or even their arguments.
Speaking from experience, ANY time I have found myself in that type of situation I realize later that I was more interested in either being seen, heard, recognized, reassured, revalidated in myself more than any point I actually had to say.
Learn from my mistakes and in these situations try to stop the conversation, maybe admit you may not know everything about a subject, and request to table it for a later time. More often than not the discussion does not even come up anymore.
They say people only remember 10% of what you say, and 90% of how they feel when you say it. Always remember compassion in a debate than being "right" - because 90% of the time it will be better for everyone.