The desire to be right is deeply seductive and understandable, but it can cause a lot of problems at work. If you’re feeling criticized, challenged or accused, it is immensely tempting to defend yourself and attempt to prove you are right. Unfortunately, this is a risky pattern that rarely gets you anything good.
Why doesn’t “being right” work?
Because when you try to prove you’re right, it generally means trying to prove that someone else is wrong. And, unless that person is extraordinarily open, they won’t want to admit they are wrong any more than you do. Instead they are likely to react in a combative and uncooperative way. They will be too busy defending themselves to listen. They will shut their hearts and ears to what you are saying, no matter how true.
Even if you “win” with a particular issue and it feels wonderfully vindicating in the moment, it rarely has a good impact long term. On the contrary, the problem tends to escalates in a vicious spiral.
I have had several clients in different work situations who were deeply embroiled in conflict with their immediate supervisor. They put every ounce of their considerable intelligence and energy into proving that the supervisor was wrong and that they knew better.
In every case, all it did was make their work life miserable, and even put their jobs at risk. I was able to help them improve their work situations because they were a) unhappy AND b) willing to look at their own share in the problems They let me guide them to see how this repeated behavior was harming them, how they could heal the wounds and choose more effective and positive thinking and behaviors.
Here is part of my approach, which you might find helpful, too.
- Validation–Your frustration and desire to be right and to fix the problems are totally understandable.
- Acceptance– it is human to make mistakes and have blind spots and deficiencies—we all have them, me, you, and your supervisor (or coworker) alike. We all deserve love and compassion in spite of our many mistakes.
- Loving detachment–Find and practice a loving place of calm detachment (I use with guided visualizations and affirmations) and let go of resentments and the illusion of control.
- Listening with heart. — You can listen to the other person story and their sense of right without making yourself wrong
- Positive action—What positive actions can you take? How can you respond rather than react?
Because my clients improved their abilities to honor and respect themselves and the other person, to find gentle compassion for their own desire to be right and for the other person as well, they were able to heal their workplace experience. As I often tell clients and students, with willingness, patience, persistence, support, and heart it is possible for you, too, to improve and transform your relationships and communication at work.