”You might say, a focus on being right is actually “wrong!”

Do you ever have an argument, and end up feeling badly even if you “win?” Winning and being “right” does not ensure that things will end well. In fact, if your sense of victory is dependent on another person’s defeat, the victory might be hollow, indeed. Being “right” is over-rated. When people are in an argument – what really are they doing? They want to defend themselves!  In an argument, each person is trying to change the other.  And who is really the only one we can change?  We all know the answer: ourselves! 

Although most of us know better, we give it a valiant try to change others anyway, because we are just so convinced that if they saw it our way, things would be better. All too often well meaning souls think they know what is best for others, and want to tweak someone else’s mind or convince them why they need to change. That is called Aggressive BehaviorAggressive Behavior is characterized by “YOU” statements, and focuses on how the other person “should be.”  Many times aggressive communication is designed to “get back” at someone else or control how they behave or think.  An example of an aggressive statement is “You have no right to say that to me!” Many people think that aggression is okay if the end justifies the means, but really anything short of physical danger does not merit aggression, because by definition the behavior is authoritarian and judgmental.

Of course, children need parents to set guidelines, limits and consequences, and it is the logical consequences that help children to learn from their mistakes.  but they don’t need scolding and yelling to learn, and in fact they learn to be fearful and inhibited rather than learning the lesson at hand.   The emotional consequences of power struggles, fear and anger lead to a lot of negativity, guilt and low self esteem. Healthy communication in parenting and otherwise is focused on self-expression without the goal of changing someone else. That is called authoritative parenting, which is differentiated from authoritarian parenting which relies on anger, negative emotions and criticalness.

Authoritative, assertive communication uses “I” statements.  “I” statements are meant to be honest, but uses tact.  It is not judgmental and expresses personal feelings without trying to change the way someone else sees things.  An assertive statement is “I felt angry when you raised your voice at me and called me names”  in contrast to the victim-like “You make me so mad!”

Communication Takeaways 

  • Strive to use assertive behavior and remind yourself that your goal is to express yourself rather than change someone’s mind. The motto of assertive behavior is like the popular 70’s Psychology book, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.”
  • Aggressive Behavior is characterized by “You” statements and the focus is on controlling and being right over another person. That type of behavior erodes relationships. The motto here is: “I’m Okay – You’re Not!”  
  • Very few relationships flourish with the type of attitude that you want to achieve superiority in an argument, rather than seeking a “win-win’ solution.  
  • Instead of striving to “win”  seek to be assertive, show empathy, and work on validating others without putting them down. 
  • Ask yourself – “Would I rather “judge” or show someone that I care?”  Love wins over teaching hands down! 
  • Victories become empty over time if your need to be right becomes a pattern. Others might distance form you, or feel tense in your presence.  It’s lonely out there!
  • Don’t pull!  Trying to be right is like putting your fingers in the Chinese Finger Trap carnival you are stuck. The more you try to prove you are right, and the more the other person pulls, your relationship suffers.

So think of the most recent conflict you had with someone close to you.  Were you focusing on proving how you were right?  If so, how would it had gone differently if you focused instead on validating and empathizing with how they felt rather than setting them straight?     So next time you are close to getting  in an argument and want to prove you are right, just imagine or pull out the carnival toy, the Chinese Finger Trap, and remind yourself not to get stuck in it!

How can you listen and really understand when you are too busy defending yourself and trying to change their mind? Remember that a focus on being right ends up making you wrong!  

(Photo credit: Tin Can Phones via Shutterstock)

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