One of the biggest, most-consistent issues I see in relationships of every kind is that one’s need to prove they are right prevents them from deeply connecting with others…and at times, connecting with themselves. Romantic partners eventually discover they have different viewpoints and/or different approaches to life, business partners can get caught up in debating whose idea is best, and colleagues can intellectualize a problem without ever taking a step towards a solution. We even undermine ourselves in believing certain self-judgments about ourselves to be true when they are not. Our access to true connection with each other, and to experiencing relationships that are more-fulfilling, is in being willing to examine what may be missing, without any attachment to being right, and then making changes that work for everyone involved.
This idea is scary for most of us because we tend to have so much invested in being “right.” From the perspective of ontology—looking at why we do the things we do—our brains are wired for survival. Often times, our survival is tied to our value, which our ego associates with rightness: If I know something you don’t know, or if I know better than you, then I have value and will survive. Do we need authorities on certain subjects and is it true that someone might know better than someone else? Of course! The problems show up, however, when we weaponize that knowledge in ways that diminish others or dismiss their needs altogether.
I see this—and have experienced it myself—in relationships all the time: There is a big decision that needs to be made, or a stressful situation that needs to be navigated, and one partner decides they know best, takes the reigns and dismisses anything that anyone else may have to offer. The opportunity to come together and utilize the best collective ideas gets missed, resentment shows up and even if that problem gets navigated successfully, a wedge now exists. Of course, someone may actually have the better idea, but if they are not willing to explore together, it just becomes a power play, which is poison for any kind of relationship, be it romantic, business, or otherwise. The happiest and most-fulfilling relationships I have observed are the ones where every voice is valued, heard, and considered.
On the flip side of the need to be right is the fear of being wrong. Blame and shame are so deeply embedded in our society, that for many of us, any instance of being, doing, or saying something wrong can feel like death. This has certainly been my experience in this lifetime. I realized over the years that anytime I experienced being made wrong, a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach showed up and I felt ashamed of myself. There was a certain level of perfection that I thought was expected of me growing up, there was my belief that nothing I ever did was good enough and, ultimately, I knew that no matter how great somebody thought I was, eventually I would screw up and they “wouldn’t love me anymore.” Sometimes, I would attempt to navigate this by trying extra hard, but mostly, I would do the bare minimum because I knew that nothing I ever did would be good enough. Then, one night, I had an experience with “Will & Grace” that had me look at things differently.
In the late 90s, I had several friends who were writers on the sit-com “Will & Grace.” I was invited to several tapings and became fascinated with how the writers worked. I knew someone had already spent months writing that week’s script. I knew that the script had been edited and re-hashed for at least a week by all of the other writers and I knew the script was at the point that they were ready to shoot it. As I watched the show being taped, I realized that in between each and every take, the writers would huddle and make changes. I observed them working together, making suggestions and doing what they collectively agreed was best to make each performance even better and funnier than the previous one. It wasn’t that there was anything “wrong” with the script they brought to the taping, it was that they saw ways to enhance and improve, and quickly implement new ideas. The space of “there is nothing wrong here, and let’s see how we can improve,” is very different from, “I screwed up and let people down.”
There was a couple I worked with who were also in business together. They were hitting walls and experiencing quite a bit of frustration personally and professionally because he was trying to control the numbers and marketing while being better at the creative side, and she was trying to control the creative side while being better at the numbers and marketing. With both of them dug-in and needing to be right, everything had stalled. When I suggested they focus on the areas of their own personal expertise and trust each other in the process, things shifted in both their romantic partnership and their business.
Successful partnerships require communication and trust. When we are able to listen to each other, acknowledge the areas where our partners excel and give up the need to be the one who is right, not only can better results be produced, but a more-fulfilled experience of working together can exist.
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