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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

False Pride Can Lead to Loss

Relationships lost over the need to be right

 Today I was in a cafe having a cup of tea.  Right behind me was a table where a couple were having an argument, an argument that went on for a long time.  I was trying not to hear it but still, the jist of it came through.  It was about being right.
It was arguing to prevail, to be the best at the debate.
Of course, there are no winners here.

I used to know someone who thought it was more important to establish the facts (that is, the facts as he saw them), in a disagreement with his wife than to leave her happy.  I am talking about mostly mundane arguments here such as how salty the soup is.

There are some people who find it very important to be right.  They want others to recognize that they are right.  They know the most.  They are sometimes also the people who say, "I told you so."  They want to triumph.

In the course of pursuing that victory, they lose something.  Conquering others does not engender closeness.  The victor walks off, head held high but, alone.

The man I mentioned above, who was so frequently correcting his wife and dominating in their disagreements, had an impoverished marriage.  In fact, although he was really a sweet and good person, because of this one penchant for arguing for the so-called facts, he was a pretty lonely guy.

Sadly, he never figured it out.

Do you know someone who fights for the prize of being the one who is right?  Do you have this habit?  In my view, most of the time, in personal relationships, it doesn't matter; being right contributes to a sense of self-importance but it isn't important who is right. 

That isn't what personal relationships are about. It seems to me that it is much more valuable to the nourishment of the relationship to accept the other's different perspective.
I believe it is usually more fruitful to truly consider the propositions put out by your mate or friend.  So, why do I say it's better?

Because this attitude buys you so much:
Engagement (a non-conversation stopper)
New ideas
Learning about another person
Closeness (your partner feels heard)
The absence of putting down someone you care about
You both got to enjoy an exchange
You can both leave the encounter happy
You are less likely to incur resentment
You might get to be listened to yourself, without having to impose yourself on the other

"That is the happiest conversation where there is no competition, no vanity, but a calm, quiet interchange of sentiments."  Samuel Johnson

 Here's another true situation I know about.  Two brothers got in a fight during the time their elderly mother was needing assistance; she couldn't care for herself anymore and they had to help.   They were stressed-partly because, in this case, her decline happened suddenly and they hadn't expected it.  They weren't prepared.  The interruption and demands suddenly landing in the middle of their busy lives made them mad and they took it out on each other.  Yelling and aggressive language happened, hanging up the phone on each other happened.  One of them was a person who always had to argue until he could establish that he was right (this usually includes not being able to or inclined to apologize and that was the case here).  This time, although they had mended fences before, they were unable to and lost the relationship with each other, permanently.  Their children lost the benefit of their aunt and uncle and cousins.  A rift with far-reaching consequences had occurred which, while there were surrounding circumstances (the high stress both were feeling), it was the driving need to be right that closed all options, in the end.

"I'd far rather be happy than right any day."  Douglas Adams
A related post:

 What advantages have you found to giving up having to be right?

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