Are You Addicted to Being Right?
July 9, 2018
My mother used to be a French teacher and an English teacher. This was a great asset for my brother and me as we grew up. She was terrific at editing our papers. She was helpful as we tackled our French homework. However, there was a downside. My mother corrected our grammar continually.
Interestingly, when I became the ripe age of about thirteen, I began correcting my friends’ grammar as well without giving it a second thought. I didn’t know how my friends felt about this, but I found out later that my in-the-moment corrections―that would no doubt interrupt their trains of thought―were not welcomed or appreciated. It felt critical and judgmental. Based on this enlightening information, I set out to change my behavior.
It took a while, but I am proud to say that I no longer correct peoples’ grammar out loud, as they speak. However, I noticed on my journey that I had learned another behavior from both my parents, grandparents, and everyone who helped raise me that it was important to be “right.” I liked to be right. Truth be told, I can still like to be right. Although, I don’t desire it as much as I used to
The simple, yet profound, realization of my need to be right was brought to my attention in the late 1990s when Kim and I were going through imago relationship therapy, a type of counseling that focuses on the relationship, rather than the individual. After sharing our individual stories for how a disagreement occurred, we each believed our perspective to be an accurate depiction of what had transpired. We were both married to being right.
Our wise therapist offered us a brilliant question that perfectly captured our own silly commitment to being right and a brand-new perspective to view communications with each other and other people: “Would you rather be right or in a relationship?” Wow! What an eye-opener! This may not be new to you, but back in the late 1990s, this was mind-blowing to me.
This simple question was a mirror that helped me realize how I had learned not only to want to be right but the significance I gave to being right. In other words, I created the story in my mind that being right meant that I was competent, smart, valuable, important, and worthy. Of course, none of this was true. It was simply the story I told myself. (For the record, I do believe that I am valuable and worthy, but it has nothing to do with whether or not I am right)!
However, I was not alone in the need to be right. It is a prevalent and dangerous theme throughout our society. I see it everywhere from clients to social media, to interactions with family and friends, and finally to our governments. It has never been a more important time to investigate why the need to be right for all of us is so compelling. This desire―this need―creates divisions in our relationships, marriages, friendships, communities, and society as a whole.
I am happy to say that I have come a long way from the person that I used to be. I can allow others to have their own perspectives and be right. Additionally, I have learned that I am not always right, and many times, I am wrong and that’s okay. Additionally, it has become clear that many times there is not a right and a wrong, but there are merely different perceptions. I now am more comfortable with apologizing because I am no longer married to being right. As a result, I can see my role when conflict occurs.
It’s difficult if not impossible to apologize or see the need to apologize when one is certain that he or she is right. I have the ability to cherish relationships more than I value my competence. I don’t always know the answers to many questions. Saying “I don’t know” is absolutely freeing. I have learned that I don’t know what is best for other people. Most important, not having to be right has allowed me to have intentional, purposeful relationships where people can speak their truths, be heard, be valued, and disagree, and in the end still be in loving, mutual relationships with each other.
- Where in your life are you addicted to being right?
- Have you lost relationships because you have felt the need to be right?
- Would you like to learn how to live more committed to the relationships in your life as opposed to being committed to being right?
It’s been a while since I’ve written, and I’ve missed you. That being said, I was taking some time for myself, and I was not quite ready to write. I hope you are all well. Therefore, there is so much to share. I will start with sharing two great books that I have read recently that remind me that we can always investigate our own perceptions.
I thoroughly enjoyed Angie Thomas’s book The Hate U Give. This is a powerful, topical story of one girl’s struggle for justice.
The second book, by Jennifer Palmieri, is Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World. Jennifer Palmieri was the director of communications for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. Additionally, she was the White House communications director for President Barack Obama and the deputy White House press secretary, special assistant to White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, and deputy director of scheduling and advance for President Bill Clinton. This is an empowering read and reflection for any girl, woman, or man who wishes to own his or her story and lead in politics, in the boardroom, or in their own lives. Truly inspiring!
As you all know, I find true inspiration from Prince Ea. I find his videos and messages absolutely thought-provoking and enlightening. Here is his latest! I hope you take the time to view. It’s brilliant, and I would agree with him that we are all energy. When we all wrap our heads around that, many of our conflicts, like racism, sexism, and classism, will disappear!