Why does it matter if I always need the upper hand?
Always needing to be right gives you the feeling of a quick win and can temporarilyraise your self-esteem. But long term, it’ s actually a very costly habit. Consider the following effects of always needing to be right on both your career and personal life.
By limiting others and overlooking their gifts and perspectives with your overriding need to be right, you also stop others from inspiring you, or pushing you to go further with ideas.
2. It keeps you in your comfort zone.
And if you don’t let yourself be pushed but stick to what you know, you are actually stagnating. Being right blocks personal growth and career growth.
2. It’s bad for productivity and progress.
photo by Mimi Thian
Many people who want to be right all the time are bad at delegating, which requires trust. If you don’t trust your partner or friends to do things right, you are stuck arranging the reunion yourself. If you only trust your colleagues with menial tasks, you can end doing the bulk of a presentation yourself, and not focussing on just the tasks which use your real strengths.
Being right is the fastest way to go slow.
3. It leaves you lonely.
Sure, the approval you sometimes get from seeming smarter can mean you temporarily bask in the glow of attention.
If you are trapped in your own perspective there is only room for you, and not others.
What’s behind an endless need to be right?
It can’t be overlooked that Western society promotes the cult of the individual, of winning and losing, and the ‘getting ahead’ that comes with capitalism. But why are you more obsessed with being right that others?
There can be genetic leanings.The general theory (albeit constantly challenged) about ‘nature vs nurture’ is that we are born with genetic leanings and ‘personality traits’. But that our personality is then developed by the environments we encounter. We might be born with a fast mind prone to analysing, and with high levels of neuroticism, or even with low cognitive flexibility. But how that develops will be based on things like our family and personal experiences.
It might be that we learnt by example. One or both of our parents might have been obsessed with being right. The environment at home might have been one of constant conflict.
Which leads to parenting.Good parenting is not about having a nice house and clothes. It’s about the healthy attachment of feeling unconditionally loved and accepted. If you had to perform to receive such things, be a ‘good’ or ‘smart’ child, if your parent was inconsistent, or cold, or preferred a sibling? These can all lead to coping mechanisms such as defensiveness. Which can look like righteousness.
There will be shame about your seeming ‘flaws’ or weaknesses, and possibly a low sense of self or identity issues. Who are you without your intelligence and savvy and ‘winner’ label?
A study at the University of Southern California used neural imaging on people with strong political beliefs who refused to be swayed by facts. It found that such people confused political identity with personal identity. The brain scans were registering an attack on political beliefs as an attack on their personal selves. Our brains are designed to protect us, so if we feel personally attacked, we’ll protest and… insist we are right.
Self-compassion, the art of treating yourself like a friend, is a buzzword in therapy circles lately. And rightfully so, as it’s a powerful tool for raising self-esteem and helping us more easily connect with others. The more we learn to let ourselves off the hook, the more we let others off the hook, too.
2. Learn the power of perspective.
Behind a need to be right is a poorly developed ability to see other perspectives. You might think you do, but do you spend time sitting down and really stepping into others shoes, or a bigger perspective entirely than those of the people involved?
3. Learn to listen. Properly.
Listening is really a bigger and better form of communication than talking. When we learn to listen properly — fully focused and present, not planning what we’ll say next or making comparisons in our head — we then ask powerful questions. We see things we used to miss. Read more in our article, “How to Listen like a Therapist.”
Get some support.
Again, a need to be right can at heart be a coping mechanism, to protect you from others getting close, or from feeling not good enough. Coping mechanisms can be hard to break alone because they are so deeply connected to our brain’s obsession with survival.
So support is a great idea.For many people, the therapy room becomes the safe space they can experiment with being ‘wrong’ in, without fear of judgement or repercussions. You can look at your ideas of what constitutes right or wrong in the first place, while expanding your ability to be compassionate to yourself and others.