How to Get Over Your Need to Always Be Right (Especially at Work)


Guest blogger Sarah Landrum of Punched Clocks is here to help you get over yourself and your need to be right.

One of the hardest things to overcome is the need to be right, and you may not even think you’re one of those people who asserts their opinion over another’s. At the heart of it, you just want your truth to be acknowledged and understood.

No matter who said what or how “wrong” anyone is, the need to always be right is pervasive in society and deep in your psyche. The expectation to be right, the guilt, sadness or anger you feel over being wrong affects your relationships, your work and your ability to be your best self.

Why You Should Want to Be Wrong Sometimes

Being wrong makes you feel off, like you didn’t put your best effort forward, but that’s not always true. You’re not always right, and there’s much to learn from being wrong on occasion:

1. Your empathy grows. When you take time to listen to another person’s perspective openly and without jumping in with an “I told you so,” your empathy grows even deeper. Some think this is helping another, but it’s not. Emotion and perspective are made up of many colors.

2. Not everything is black and white. In your mind, the situation may look like a turn of the century black and white cartoon, with you tied up on the railroad tracks and the villain twirling his mustache. Everything’s not always so simple — there’s rarely one wrong person and one right person.

At first, all those colors of emotion and perspective appear to be complicated and unnecessarily dramatic, but a peaceful resolution is on the other side, as long as you are able to acknowledge that being “right” is a spectrum of solutions.

3. There’s more than two sides to a story or an issue. You’re always told to hear the other side of the story before you make a snap decision about a situation. While someone is telling their truth or their side of the story, you’re probably not present to hear it because your mind is translating their words into something they’re not saying. When you’re in a worked-up state, it’s hard to hear what someone else has to say.

As parents often say: There’s your story, their story and what really happened. Often, there’s also how you’re spinning their tale, too. You never learn the whole story because you’re too comfortable with your version.

How to Get Over the Need to Be Right

Breathing techniques only get you so far when your feathers are ruffled and you feel the itch to do something. What provokes you to have to say something?

The seven deadly emotions are usually the culprits that provoke you into action, pursuing justice and asserting what’s right. Here’s what they are — with a few tips to help you root out the need to be right:

1. Your compulsive need to know. Facts make you feel smart, but how does it make someone else feel? Are you being a busybody? Not everyone can be fabulous like Hermione Granger, and that’s okay.

Ask yourself: Do I really need to know this? Why do I need to know this? Don’t come at the situation from a need to correct someone. Listen, show the person you understood and ask if they’d like your input. Don’t hog the conversation. Could this person be right, in their way?

2. Your need to be right. Why isn’t anyone listening to you? If you disapprove of what someone says without thinking or talk over someone, you’re not interested in them at all. You’re automatically making someone feel insignificant.

If you’ve a deep-seated need to be right, look for the deeper issue. Are you a bit scared? Do you feel unheard? Focus on what you really want to say when you get the opportunity, and speak from your heart on the real matter.

3. Your need to get even. When riled up, sometimes people become petty and say things in the heat of the moment, perhaps words that stem from gossip or entrusted secrets.

The need to get even may start with words, but it may also become an action to sabotage someone else. You’re only self-sabotaging. By stooping to this level, your actions are reflecting badly on yourself and you’re only perpetuating negativity. Change the script, and walk away if you need to.

4. Your need to look good. Saying the right thing, twisting a situation to appear on the upside and being the star pupil are all methods behind your need to look good. Do you have a fear of meeting expectations?

It’s okay to be wrong — you learn from every situation. Focus on the empowerment behind the lesson. Let others learn such lessons on their own. You’re already a shining star!

5. Your need to judge. In a world of the indecisive, you’re the go-getter and the one who gives advice with blunt honesty. Telling the truth is a valuable trait, but, sometimes, it transforms into being judge and jury. The other person, who only wanted you to listen, feels put on trial. What are they so guilty of?

How do you really feel about what you’re judging? Do you have a little remark for every occasion, for what somewhere wears or how you’d have handled a situation? If you find yourself making a judgmental list in your head, stop the hamster wheel, and take in the good of the moment. What’s beautiful or different? Find a trigger to pull yourself out of the cycle. Ask the other person questions.

6. Your need to keep score. That’s two strikes — one more and they’re out. When you’re keeping score, you’re not focused on solving the problem, only perpetuating it. The three strikes rule is often used for children who are tardy or cross some other line, but adults are not children. If this is how you’re keeping score, look at the boundaries in your life. Are there any at all, and are they healthy?

Establish healthy boundaries with others and yourself. Remember to communicate calmly and politely when others have crossed these boundaries.

7. Your need for control. The need to control may be outright or it can be nuanced. Your need to control by being right involves clever rephrasing and small, not always intentional, manipulations of objects or actions. Sometimes, the root of a need for control is a need for a safe space.

Maybe you’re afraid of vulnerability or being wrong because there’s anxiety hidden underneath the need to control. How can you establish a safe space for yourself at work and at home? Are there actions, exercises or hobbies that make you feel more grounded?

It’s okay to let go. You can only control your thoughts, feelings and actions.

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