I would rather be right than president.—Henry Clay
If we could distill all the needs that cause unhappiness, the product would be the Need to be Right. This ingrained BS (Belief System) is the core of conflict, champion of the “J”s,* and a major speed bump on the road to happiness.
A friend once led a discussion group on the need to be right. They lamented its pervasiveness among the members of the church down the street. They viewed the others as unenlightened and closed-minded.
Not once did anybody suggest members of their own group might have a need to be right. When I suggested another point of view, they responded with anger. They alluded to a physically impossible position for my head.
Another friend prefaces every opinion with a condescending put-down of anyone who might differ. He’s a master of the non sequitur. Disagree and he’ll change the subject and never miss a beat. Ridicule and insult are his stock in trade, and, if you ask, he’ll tell you how accepting and open minded he is.
He’s a lot of fun at parties.
Once convinced of their cause or point of view, with the need to be right, they declare all others wrong. It’s a matter of self-defense. If they’re right you must be wrong. It’s up to them to convince you of the error of your ways.
They often misrepresent other points of view. Then they critique the distorted model they create. It’s the “straw person” argument, and renders rationality to the dustbin of discourse. You find it often in discussions of religion and politics.
I’ll bet you can think of plenty of people who fit these patterns. Might they think of you if they read this?
What’s Wrong With Being Right?
Nothing at all. It’s comfortable to be right.
But I’m talking about the NEED to be right. It’s the unconscious BS that says you MUST be right and prove others wrong. It triggers all the unhappy emotions that rob you of perspective, self esteem and love.
Through childhood, adulthood and old age, we never get a reward for being wrong. The programming is so constant and so intense we don’t even know it’s happening. None of us are immune, dammit.
As you can see in the examples above, the need can’t even recognize itself. We wear psychological blinders, and not a mirror in sight. There ought to be an infallible way for us to spot this BS within ourselves so we can upgrade it.
Emotions are the best and most obvious indicators of the need to be right. The “J”s are excellent indicators, especially Judgment and Justification.
Judgment deals with “It’s not OK” and often produces anger or frustration. If you’re angry or resentful, what are you judging?
Justification is a reaction to the fear of “I’m not OK.” Fear and guilt are more subtle come to the surface less frequently. When you justify, chances are there’s a fear lurking somewhere.
*Check out the examples of the “J”s in last month’s issue of Transformation Coaching. You’ll see how they relate to the fear and anger.
What are you feeling? Do you get upset when somebody expresses an opinion you disagree with? (Justification), How do you feel in the “Under 10-Items” checkout lane when a person in front of you has 11 items? (Judgment). Do you call other drivers names when they creep along in the left lane? (Both)
In any situation where you get upset, consider it an opportunity to upgrade the BS. Then, without the pressure of the need to be right, you can make choices for your best outcome. You’ll see options you had overlooked before.
Take my Advice. Don’t Give Advice.
One special facet of the need to be right is advice without consent. Unsolicited advice leads to resistance and often rebellion. It can be as harmful as physical brutality. I can think of nothing that can add distance to a relationship more quickly.
Yet all too often, a simple sharing is interpreted as a request for advice. It’s often given with a genuine concern out of friendship or parental wisdom.
I remember how I rebellious I felt when, as a teen, I’d get sage advice from my parents. No doubt my kids felt the same way when I shared my brilliance with them.
A wise friend said, “Notice how miserable your advisors are.” Any advice you offer is suspect if you haven’t solved the same problem as your advisee. Would you get financial advice from a barber, or hair styling from a banker? I hope not.
The safest advice you can give in any situation is, “Do what you want.”
*What, you don’t have last month’s issue and don’t know about the “J”s? You can fix that right away. Mention my name and I’ll get you a free subscription.
Gregg Sanderson is author of Spirit With A Smile, The World According To BOB. He is a licensed practitioner in the Centers for Spiritual Living, and a Certified Trainer for Infinite Possibilities. His earlier books were, What Ever Happened To Happily Ever After? and Split Happens—Easing The Pain Of Divorce. His latest project is the New Thought Global Network, where subscribers can enjoy the best in New Thought presentations from anywhere at any time. You can see it at http://www.newthoughtglobal.org.