In my previous blog Can We All Get Along?, I discussed the importance of focusing on being effective instead of being right. Now, I’m sure we can all think of exceptions to what I’m about to say, but I acknowledge that are few, if any, absolute “Truths” in this world. That old saying that “there is an exception to every rule” rings true. What I’m talking about are general truths, not absolute (or unequivocal) Truths.
So, back to elaborating on why it is important to focus on being effective over being right. Think back to an argument you’ve had with your partner, boss, co-worker, or close friend. How often have you really “won” an argument? If the other person is upset with you because you bludgeoned them into submission with your logic, what kind of victory is it?
The fact is, research shows that most of our happiness (some estimates say around 70%) is tethered to our relationships with others. To the extent that we are in close, need-satisfying relationships, we tend to be happy. When we are feeling socially alienated, isolated, or ostracised, our well-being takes a substantial hit. Now, think back to that argument: How chummy was your significant other after proving him/her “wrong”? Chances are, not very. Now flip this: How warm and fuzzy do YOU feel after losing an argument? Yeah, me neither!
Since our own happiness is inextricably linked to our relationships with others, we, in effect, are sabotaging our own happiness, as well as that of others, when we try to be “right.” Perhaps we get a slight gratification when we prove a point, but when our friend decides not to invite us to a particular social gathering because he/she is still miffed at us, what did we really win? Don’t we all prefer to sleep in the same bed with our partner instead of on the couch?
Let’s now go back to the delusion of “winning” an argument. After a heated argument, how often have you made a stunning point that the person, in all sincerity, humbly concedes? “Bill, I’m so sorry I was arguing with you about gun control. Now that you’ve laid out the facts of the matter so clearly, I see the errors in my thinking and have now switched positions.” Yeah, right! Never happens! How often have YOU conceded to the other person after a heated argument? To be quite honest, I don’t know that I can say that I have. Perhaps we will admit to some factual errors about things such as movie and song titles, but rarely about value-laden issues. In arguments, we often become more polarized and entrenched in our original perspective, not less. My mother was fond of saying, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” There is a lot of truth in this pithy maxim.
We could also add in the idea of karma here. In the general sense of “what comes around, goes around,” when we focus on being right and cause a rift in a relationship, we are often are left with two peeved people. These upset people then interact with others, often carrying the negativity with them and spreading it like a virus within a social network. And you know what? Sometimes it ends up coming right back at us! As they say, “karma’s a b$%*@.”
So, as we grow nearer to election day and the rhetoric becomes deafening, we would all do well to re-double our efforts to focus on being effective instead of trying to be right. Life is complicated, and we are all in this together. When we lose sight of this, we all suffer for it. Conversely, if we keep our focus on being effective, we all reap the benefits.