Exercising your need to be right

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One of the things we’ve been discussing on and off during teacher training over the last six weeks has been our inherent “need to be right,” and how exercising that need often leads us to disconnect from others.

It’s tough to explain what it means to have the need to be right, and the best way I know how to describe it through this quote I recently came across in an article on “spiritual snobbery”:

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:

At the first gate, ask yourself “Is it true?”

At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”

At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”

In my world, the first gate is easy enough to step across. But many, many things that come out of my mouth often fail the test of gates two and three.

In business meetings, I find myself asking questions I already know the answer to. Not to validate my thoughts or check whether I’ve been misinformed, but to show people how much I know without coming off as a know-it-all.

In casual conversation, people will mention things I don’t agree with and I rush in to correct their misconceptions, despite the fact that their being “wrong” has absolutely no bearing on my life or theirs.

And while there are times in life when it’s important for other people to agree with me (e.g., my husband and I need to be on the same page about where we’re sending our son to school, or my boss needs to be on board with consequential decisions that affect the direction of my team), most of the time we correct someone or engage someone in an argument we would probably be better off tacitly agreeing to disagree (it is not necessary to let the barista at Starbucks know that my name is spelled with an E).

I don’t need to derive my own value from showing people how much I know. I don’t need to validate my intelligence by forcing people to do things my way. I don’t need to argue for the sake of winning, for the sake of demonstrating that I’m right and you’re wrong.

It is not necessary. It is not kind. And if we could all learn to shut those two gates when it’s warranted, the world would be so much happier.

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