If you could choose between being happy and being right, which would you consciously choose?
I have a confession to make. I am a former “rightaholic”. You know what a “rightaholic” is. It’s someone who insists on being right. I used to be “that person” who had the need to compete…no matter what. That was until the mid 80’s when the wisdom of Dale Carnegie opened my eyes to the true price of needing to be right. It was costing me friends and relationships. And that’s when I started my journey to learn to love being wrong.
In Carnegie’s book, “How To Win Friend and Influence People”, he explains how we turn friends into enemies by sharing an excerpt from Carl Rogers’ book, “On Becoming A Person. The excerpt goes like this…
“Our first reaction to most of the statements (which we hear from other people) is an evaluation or judgement, rather than an understanding of it. When someone expresses some feeling, attitude, or belief, our tendency is almost immediately to feel “that’s right,” or “that’s stupid,” “that’s abnormal,” “that’s unreasonable,” that’s incorrect,” “that’s not nice.” Very rarely do we permit ourselves to understand precisely what the meaning of the statement is to the other person.”
Does that sound familiar to you? It sure does to me. When was the last time you heard yourself saying, “that’s right”, “that’s stupid”, or how about “that’s wrong”? I’ll bet it wasn’t long ago. We all do it at least occasionally. Even us reformed “rightaholics” aren’t perfect :)
I’m convinced that mind-games (unconscious habits and reactions) like “rightaholicism” are somehow mysteriously installed in our brains sometime early in life (sort of like pre-installed software on a new computer). And it’s not until later, after a few hard knocks, we realize that the mind-games do us more harm than good. And I’m sure you know just how hard it can be to uninstall old mind-games. They’re deeply ingrained stubborn habits, and they don’t like to change.
Carnegie goes on to tell a story about some tough love Ben Franklin received from a wise old friend. His friend warns him,
“Ben, your are impossible. Your opinions have a slap in them for everyone who differs with you. They have become so offensive that nobody cares for them. Your friends find they enjoy themselves better when you’re not around. You know so much that no man can tell you anything.”
That very day Ben decided to change. And as you probably know, Ben Franklin later became known as one of the most diplomatic men in American history. It just goes to show…old dogs can learn new tricks, and so can we.
I’ll let you in on a little secret I learned along the way. Being wrong is far easier and less stressful than being right! And it’s more fun too! In fact, once you get the hang of it, it’s effortless. You’re going to love it! You simply drop the beliefs, the thoughts, and the behaviors that drive you to prove your point. Drop the arguments, drop the disagreements, and drop the corrections. Just stop.
Think of it this way. Accepting another person’s point of view (rather than debating or resisting it) doesn’t mean that you agree or that it’s true for you. It simply means that the other person has a different perspective than you do. That’s it! It’s not good, bad, right, or wrong…it just is…and sometimes it’s interesting.
So, what’s it going to be for you? Do you want to keep paddling upstream, or would you like to try floating downstream?
Are you ready to experiment with learning to love being wrong? Here are a few tips to get you started.
Listen Up – For the next 24 hours put up your antenna and tune in to the conversations going on around you. Don’t forget to listen to yourself too. Then take 15 – 30 minutes to reflect on these questions at the end of the day.
- How often did you hear disagreements, contradictions, or people correcting each other?
- Were people relating to each other, or were they reacting?
- How important were the topics being discussed?
Select a Strategy To Test – Try a couple of these ideas or create your own
- Instead of “stating” your opinion, try prefacing your statement with, “I may be wrong” or “this is just my personal opinion”
- Instead of giving your opinion, ask for more information like “tell me more about that”, or “what do you think about that?”
- Instead of giving your opinion, make a neutral comment like “that’s interesting” or “interesting perspective” or “oh really?”
Reflect On Your Results – Notice what’s different for you. How do you feel different? Are other people noticing a difference?
Share your experience here!