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The Need to Be Right

One of the many attitudes to conflict that derails interpersonal conflicts (and most conflicts, really) is a need to be right. Having to “win”, to assert our perspective as the best one, and be “better than”, “smarter than” and so on, all seem to fall under this need. I’ve been thinking about why it is so important to some of us to be right such that conflicts focus on these polarized dimensions – right and wrong.

Considering this, I found myself asking a lot of questions. For instance, does the need to be right also mean there’s a need to humiliate the other person, or to make them feel foolish? Is it about an inflated ego or a deflated one? Is there a reason why we cannot understand that the other person is right as far as they are concerned? How come solutions and positions can only be right or wrong?

As you can tell, I have questions, but I don’t know the answers. It seems to me though we close off open mindedness, creativity and flexibility as core values when we have to be right and make the other person wrong. It also seems we lose dignity and kindness when we do so.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider a time you strongly asserted that you were right on an issue and would not back down as you answer the following:

  • What was the conflict situation in which you asserted you were right?
  • What made your view right in that situation?
  • What was wrong about the other person’s viewpoint, as far as you were concerned?
  • What motivated you to take a strong stance?
  • What did the other person object to about your view/position?
  • What did the other person consider right about their position or perspective?
  • What specifically makes this situation a matter of someone having to be right and someone having to be wrong? Why is that?
  • What did you accomplish by asserting your rightness in this situation? How did it help?
  • How was it not helpful?
  • If you were to accept part of what was right for the other person, what might that be? What difference would it make to the conflict?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?


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