Why You’re Wrong and I’m Right
I think what I think because it’s right. If you think differently, you’re wrong. I never intentionally think stupid ideas or chose wrong options. Do you?
I always choose what I think is right. Research indicates that the act of choosing strengthens my opinion that my choice is right. Even if I’m wrong, I’m right, or at least it feels that way.
Why I need to be right?
- I view life as a series of destinations that must be reached.
- I’m a control freak. Believe me; I’m right on this one. I stopped playing monopoly years ago because other players didn’t realize the trade I offered was right.
- I have good intentions. Isn’t it strange that we can have good intentions but still be wrong?
- I see. Seeing may be the most blinding thing I do; it closes my mind.
- I need approval and in order to gain it, I must be right.
- I can’t get where I’m going and be wrong. I’m paralyzed aren’t I?
The thought that I could be wrong doesn’t sit well. That’s because I’m right!
I’ve been wrong enough to know in my head that I could be wrong. But I’m a slow learner. Thankfully, even as I type this, I know I’m right about being wrong.
If I could be wrong, I:
- Ask questions.
- Seek counsel.
- Change my mind. (Ouch! That one stings.)
- Defend less. I’ve noticed that my defensiveness invites others to be defensive. It’s impossible to help someone feel understood while I’m defending myself.
Just for today, I’m entertaining the thought that I could be wrong.
What’s dangerous about the need to be right?
How can leaders be wrong in a leaderly way? (I don’t think leaderly is a word. Is it?)
I appreciate your suggestion about to be right. Taking your points, I would like to arrange in- Invite, listen, explore and debate. All the points are equally important and powerful. We need to understand what is meant by ” Need to be right”. When we see my our perspectives, it would seem that we will always be right. Our minds have limitation based on experience, knowledge and exposure. So, self claimed right is something self centric approach and it can not be right actually unless others accept it. And it is the danger in being right from self perspective. But when we change the approach, we are being accepted by others. Here, others matter in deciding who is right or need to be right.
However, in the context where others belong to same group or similar interest based on their benefit then you have to think in what way you need to be right. So, in such contexts, even leaders can be wrong, because they are concerned about themselves.
What I mean to say is that We always need to question our intention to be right. Our intention determines whether we are right or wrong.
Thank you Ajay.
I appreciate your insights. One I’m taking with me is in some contexts it’s important for others to think we are right, too. 🙂
What is dangerous about the overarching need to be right is that eventually people see through this and they stop trying to communicate with you. They stop applauding you when you are indeed right, and they are less likely to confront, correct or help you when you are wrong.
If you need to be right all the time, you deprive yourself of the very essence of teamwork. The team will either go their own way, or become nonproductive, meaning that you are no longer truly leader them. Teams bring together people with different talents, abilities and skill sets.
Your first paragraph is bang on. High five.
Thank you Martina.
Your inclusion of teamwork here really enhances the topic.
One nugget I read is people stop affirming people who need to be right.
So well said Martina. As I mature I love the freedom of knowing that being right is not all it is cracked up to be! I celebrate the joy of wondering and exploring with others to broaden my perspective.
In the classroom we help others the most when we are wrong. Students LOVE it when the teacher is wrong. They jump out of lethargy and inattentiveness to tell us so. It completely engages them. Sometimes it’s annoying…but hey…I’ve got em. They are WITH me. In that moment learning happens.
I love telling students about times in my life when I was wrong. I’ve learned the most when I am wrong. I can teach them that. I can talk about how to grow from it. We don’t grow from being right.
But I get your message. I can think of one person with whom I feel an unhealthy sense of competition. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but in the halls of Leadership Freak we are honest. In my defense, it is only one person. If I am wrong in the presence of that person, my world crumbles and I replay it in my mind like a continuous loop of a horror movie. My pennance never ends. It is not leaderly at all.
Thank you Dauna.
Powerful idea that being wrong engages others. I still wonder about credibility based on others believing we are competent. Perhaps leaders can be competent in finding rather than giving answers?
The reason as I see it, that people have to be right, can’t be wrong, is that they feel more important when they present themselves with the attitude of being right. In a world of looking good, not looking bad, it pushes people to always be right, so as to not be embarrassed.
Thank you Michael.
You nailed an important part of this conversation. I wonder how we should respond.
In my OPINION, there is no right or wrong. It is all the perception of how the topic or comment is received.
Perhaps after many wrongs, humility was invented and experience became the new word for “learning from failure.” Transparency, accountability, and integrity are among other leadership traits that may have been borne from being wrong.
Being wrong and understanding why make admitting to it much easier. For me, the real take away is being cognizant of the “If I could be wrong, I …” list.
The need to be right may driven by the fear of losing hard earned respect, trust, confidence and the ability to lead, Failing to admit we were wrong makes this fear a reality (for all the wrong reasons).
Admitting “I was wrong and here’s why” may not make things right but it is the start of moving on to make things better. Sharing the lessons learned goes a long way to bringing the team back on the same page.
Appreciate this thought provoking lesson in leadership.
When the leader suspects there may be ‘another way’, ask the following two questions:
Tell me more.’ You want to fully understand their logic / idea.
‘What do you like about my idea?’ They may not have fully appreciated something of your logic / idea.
That way you will both have found what you have in common, not need to be ‘wrong’, and both have a better idea.
I’m interested in locating the research that indicates that by the mere process of deciding I reinforce the notion that my decision is “right”. The concept supports what I see in people who lack confidence in themselves and therefore find it difficult to make decisions at all. Unfortunately, the other side of that coin is (at least in my experience) a direct inverse correlation between people who are always sure they are right and people who make good decisions – just a thought!
Great post Dan. I have been through many similar lessons and am glad we are both ‘right’ about our conclusions.
Wait, I thought only I was right? 🙂 Fair points, Dan.
Being right with confidence and credibility is different from “being right” as a form of ego gratification. I see the distinction as excellence versus perfectionism.
Excellence always has a bit of flexibility and willingness to learn whereas perfectionism is about making sure you manipulate the opinions of others.
I often say “Being right is to the left of being excellent,” with the idea that excellence is always room for improvement and a commitment to learning versus stuck on a number line to achieve a perfect 10 in order to get the prize, the applause or approval.
I really enjoy your understanding, it gives me a new perspective. Although, your comment on being right with credibility, leaves me wanting more clarification. The way I see it, credibility creates ego. The more creditable a person is, the more their ego says, ‘Hey, I’m always right’.
Thank you Michael. What I mean is that in order for others to trust (that we are credible) we must have a certain amount of success and confidence, otherwise it’s very difficult to get a team to work together.
It’s a balance, that’s for sure. The best way I can describe it, is this: As I’m doing some re-decorating work in my kitchen, I love that the person designing a custom desk has a knowledge base that I don’t. She is very confident but still open to my opinions.
Her “being right” is from years of experience and an eye that I don’t necessarily have.
So the distinction I make about credibility is having enough confidence in your knowledge and experience, yet still being willing to learn more and listen to others without becoming defensive. I would say it’s a combination of credibility married to character. Does that help?
Great piece. Being right is not a birthright. Being wrong is not a crime. Open your mind to all possibilities. It is possible that someone might know more/better than you do and you might learn something useful.
The burning need to be right causes ones mind to be closed. Closed minds lead to status quo. Status quo leads to stagnation.
Dale Carnegie taught me that if you really need to be right, you can be. If I prove you wrong, I may win the point but I have lost your good will. I have no problem letting someone else be right….
…especially when I know they are dead wrong! 🙂
The ability to criticize my own thoughts is fundamental in building something that is bigger than myself.
Couple of thoughts that came up for me; there is no right or wrong there is only agreement (or not) and the biggest cause of conflict in the world is someone’s need to be right.
I think Stephen Covey put it well when he said “seek first to understand before being understood”. Great post Dan
I really enjoy your perspective on this. It brings a new level of understanding!
I’ve found when I was wrong and subordinate was right, I was too focused on the goodness of my idea and lost sight of the bigger picture.
Great blog — I was just talking to someone about how my need to “be right” has even created a stumbling block for my own change. I told a friend that I had to absolutely know that this was the ultimate answer. When she asked why, I said “because I need to know that I have the right answer.” I wrote a blog this week about leaders apologizing, because I’ve seen too many who make a mistake but won’t admit it. The price is a project or the eventual deterioration of a team. Trust is broken. Thanks so much for this blog!
Exploring how leaders can be wrong in a leaderly way would be a great idea. Especially now when the media have made it “illegal” for politicians to change their minds because it is a sign of weakness.
Great post, Dan, and a really interesting string of comments.
Many years ago, I worked in a role which taught me many lessons and one of the things that surprised me about the demographic I worked with was the surprisingly high proportion that were estranged from family members. In the majority of instances, this had happened as a result of what I call the ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ syndrome and families were becoming estranged over what can best be described as trivia. It was very sad to see.
People can be so stubborn in hanging on to this ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ attitude that they end up suffering, as a result. Of course, they blame the other party for their suffering, which only takes away their power to resolve things.
We’re all unique individuals with a unique perspective based on our unique experiences and the truth is, ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat’. Whilst our way may well be the best for us, it doesn’t automatically follow that it’s the best way for everyone else.
Becoming entrenched in this ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ state of mind causes us to think defensively rather than objectively and it can seriously damage relationships, no matter how strong those relationships may be. Particularly, where that defensive thinking leads to some kind of confrontational defense.
Ultimately, I find that it helps to remember that we’re all students, as well as, teachers and we should always keep an open mind. After all, that’s the only way we can learn.
Doing this creates the room to open up the discussion rather than closing the discussion down, as happens with the ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ defensive approach.
My favorite response: If you were right, I’d agree with you…