If you are someone (or are in a relationship with someone) who:
- consistently needs to get in the last word
- works to prove your point until your partner agrees with you
- dominates or interrupts conversations to get your ideas in
- looks for who’s to blame when something challenging occurs
- feels a strong need to be “right”
- responds to the ideas of others, not with curiosity but with your “superior” opinions and ideas
- repeats yourself, over and over, until you’ve “convinced” your partner
- has a pattern of making people wrong for what they think (i.e. “that’s a bad idea because…”)
- puts yourself in a position of authority over your spouse (“I know more than you” mentality)
- says things like: “how could you even think that?” or “what world do you live in?
- tells your partner: “I told you this was going to happen” or “this is your fault”
- takes a position of condescending superiority
- refuses to listen or consider your partner’s point of view when it’s different from yours (with defensive body language, by talking over them, or by checking out or walking away)
- and/or gets really attached to your version of reality
…this blog is for you!
We recognize these aren’t the most attractive qualities to raise your hand and say you do. 😉
However, we see these patterns so often, and we see them damage and ruin relationships (of all kinds) so consistently that we’re here to help you compassionately take a look at why you feel such a need to be right, the damage it is causing, and how you can shift this pattern to improve your relationships.
Also, if you are in a relationship with someone who has a strong need to be right and find yourself walking on eggshells, quieting your voice, agreeing with their ideas just to appease them, or withdrawing out of exasperation, you will also find this month’s blog helpful and validating, and we include some special tips just for you at the end!
First, let’s take a look at WHY you may get attached to being right…
Fear of Your Needs Not Being Met
Perhaps you see your partner’s ideas as being in opposition to yours and, therefore, as a threat to your needs getting met. You may find yourself wanting to attack, silence, or destroy their ideas in order to save and protect your own needs. (Below, we have some tips for you!)
Fear of Making a Mistake or Being Wrong or Not Enough
Perhaps you are afraid that, if their idea (which is different from yours) is a good one, it means yours is a bad or worse one. If you lean towards perfectionism or have a fear of making a mistake or not being enough, this can be triggering for you. (Personal growth is very important to transform and heal this wound.)
Power Move of the Ego
On some level, we really are human animals, and our egos, if we let them go unchecked, can be driven by power and wanting to feel significant. Our egos can become tempted to make ourselves and our perspectives “better than” by making others “less than.” However, the irony is this: although you may get a temporary sense of perceived significance, you will get worse relationships, less joy, and a much less engaged and happy spouse if you take this route.
Prioritizing Accuracy Over Connection
Perhaps you find yourself listening for what’s accurate, rather than listening to understand. These are two very different listening filters. There are areas of your life where accuracy can be a great asset. However, relationships are not typically one of them. When it comes to relationships, we all have different perspectives and feelings, and it is rarely helpful to make accuracy the priority. Instead, it’s essential that you get more interested in understanding your beloved, being curious, and hearing them than taking on the role of being the judge of what’s right and accurate. (Of course, if manipulation, dishonesty, or betrayal are involved, accuracy then becomes much more important.)
Now let’s take a look at the damage your need to be right is having…
Stress and Exhaustion
It takes seconds to say to one another “yeah, that makes sense” or “that’s a neat way of looking at things” or to think to yourself “I wonder what I can learn from this.” Plus, those seconds are positive, connecting, easy, and enjoyable and keep our hearts lighter and more open. On the contrary, having to be right is exhausting and stressful, for both of you, and it makes relationships much more difficult in the long run. It is the most liberating thing when you relinquish your need to be right.
When have you felt deeply connected to someone who “has to be right” and dominates with their ideas? Rarely. We feel most connected to people who are great listeners, who value, validate, and hear our ideas and feelings and perspectives. Plus, you can’t be intimately connected to one another when you are focused on being right. Emotional intimacy comes from our hearts, not our critical minds.
Loss of Respect
Although people may appear to respect you more (out of fear or exasperation), deep down, they will respect you less. We tend to most genuinely admire and respect the people who also respect us and help us feel better about ourselves, not worse.
When your partner feels wrong all the time or that they have to fight to be heard and validated, chances are, they will start to check out or withdraw, physically and/or emotionally.
Stress, exhaustion, disconnection, shutting down, loss of respect… The harm done goes much deeper than this, but we hope that at least gives you a little more incentive to try out the new habits and mindset shifts below. Remember: you will end up losing so much more than you ever hoped to gain from being right.
Now, let’s explore what you can do instead…
(1) Recognize that you have this pattern of needing to be right.
The first step in any change is to get honest with ourselves. When you take responsibility for having this habit, you then become empowered to change it, for the betterment of yourself, others, and your relationships. Even better — acknowledge this with your partner, and let them know you recognize this pattern of yours. Rest assured, you aren’t revealing anything they don’t already see. 😉 They will actually feel more connected to you and be more open, engaged, and generous with you when you take responsibility and apologize.
(2) Allow your partner to have a perspective that is different from yours.
It is so liberating when we retire from the need to see things the same. Instead, be open-minded and open-hearted towards each other, be curious, see what there is to learn from each other’s perspective, and know that there is enough space for both of your perspectives in your love — it does not have to be either/or, and perhaps each perspective is truly “right” for each of you. A solution to any challenge does not come when you both agree. Rather, it comes when you both feel deeply heard and empathized with for however you see things and when you find ways to work together, as a team.
To practice learning from your partner instead of having to be right, simply ask an open-ended and curious question to inquire even more about whatever they are thinking (rather than shutting their ideas down). Use the prompt: “I appreciate that you…” and find something to appreciate about their perspective.
One of the fastest ways out of our critical minds and back into our hearts is through appreciation. You may have no idea what you even want to appreciate until you open your mouth to say the words “thank you for…” If you look closely enough, there is something about their perspective or idea that you can appreciate. Train yourself to look for these things instead.
(4) Look for the feelings and needs underneath whatever they are saying.
Rather than exhaust so much of your time and energy arguing over the facts, look underneath the surface to see the feelings and needs that are driving each of you to see things how you do. This is the compassionate response and the one that generates empathy and understanding. Spend your energy here instead. Our feelings (like sadness, excitement, frustration, joy, etc.) and our needs (for closeness, appreciation, adventure, independence, trust, security, fun, love, etc.) are valid. Remember that you can HEAR and validate each other without having to AGREE with each other.
To practice focusing on the underlying needs instead of being right, simply use the prompt (or something similar): “I know you’ve been feeling ________________ and that you really value __________________________ so I can see why that would be important to you.”
(5) Focus on accepting your differences and solving problems
When you are wasting all your energy on trying to convince your partner to see things how you do, you are missing out on using that energy to actually co-create a solution together. Nobody has to be wrong. You can both be right. Move forward by collaborating and using each of your uniquely valuable wisdom to find creative ways for both of your needs to be met.
(6) Be more committed to being happy and connected than being right.
We feel this is one of the most important relationship mantras. In countless moments, you truly do have a choice: do I want to be happy and close right now, or do I want to be right? One option generally comes from love and from our hearts, and the other from our egos. We hope you choose the first!
(7) Focus on your own vulnerable feelings, rather than making their perspective wrong.
When you are focused on being right, there are more vulnerable feelings going on for you underneath the surface. Get quiet, drop into your heart, put your defenses down, and turn within: what are you really feeling? Do you feel shame, guilt, or sadness, are you missing them, are you longing to be close to them, are you upset about something completely unrelated? Share these more vulnerable feelings instead, and they will hear you much more readily, and you will actually get to a true solution.
Try saying: “What I’m really feeling right now is…”
(8) Do some personal growth and practice self-love.
Why are you so attached to being right — and so afraid of being wrong? What are you really scared of? It’s so important to look your fears in the face, on your own or with the help of a therapist or coach, and to work through them — so that they don’t come out in messy ways that end up damaging your relationships.
The more you deeply love and accept yourself, the less you will need to prove to others that you are smarter, better, etc. This is such an important practice for all of us to do.
(9) Breeeeeeeathe, and remember you are allies.
Your breath will be a great friend as you shift this pattern and work to get out of your head and into your open, curious heart. Relax, let go, breathe. Take things more lightly, and see your beloved as your teammate and ally.
(10) Be humble.
Recognize that we all have blind spots, you included. We don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t see what we can’t see. Look for the ways you are less than perfect. Focus on how you can grow, not on how others are wrong and should know better. We all could spend the rest of our lives improving ourselves, and that’s the best place imaginable for where we can direct our focus.
Lastly, let’s take a quick peek at what to do if you are with a partner who struggles with the perpetual need to be right…
If your partner does the things we’ve discussed, you may feel like you are walking on eggshells, that you’re losing your voice, or that you have to pretend to agree with your partner in order for them to finally stop repeating their point.
Here are the two key things we recommend doing:
(1) Hear, acknowledge, and assure them.
If you want your beloved to also hear and acknowledge you, be sure you are modeling this for them. It will also help them relax if they feel heard and validated by you. Especially hear the needs and fears underneath what they are saying, and proactively offer them assurance.
(2) Have boundaries, and hold onto who you are.
Otherwise, you will build resentment, you will start checking out (emotionally or physically), you will never get to the core of the problem, and you will feel like your life together doesn’t reflect who you are. Lovingly stand your ground on the things that are important to you. Be curious about their perspective and open to it, but also hold onto what is true for you. This is not about you being right over your partner — it’s about making sure you aren’t made to be wrong.
You don’t need a strong opinion about everything (in fact, this likely would not help ;)), but it’s important that you do have ideas you believe in. Assure your partner it’s okay for you to see it differently. Deep down, your partner doesn’t want to just walk all over you, and it doesn’t bring out their best when they think they can.
There is so much we could say about this topic because it’s such a big one in relationships!
We promise: if you can give up the losing strategy of needing to be right, you can literally transform your communication overnight! The short-term gain of being “right” is nothing compared to the long-term gain of a truly happy relationship.
So, the next time you find yourself wondering “who’s right,” perhaps you could shift instead into “who cares.” 🙂
May your moments be filled a greater commitment to being happy and connected than to being right — life is way more fun and enjoyable that way 🙂
Infinite Love and Joy,
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