Monday, December 5, 2011

Being Wrong Can Be Right

So my family has an "I'm right" gene where we really stand this ground til the bitter end.  I carry this gene too.  I have in the past been so stuck on being right, perhaps to prove my intelligence or worthiness but it was years before I realized how tremendously frustrating this trait can be.  I can remember 3 people in my family hurrying through the door into my house to verify who was right about a piece of information they had been arguing about during the entire ride over and what struck me the most was the energy that I sensed about it not being so much about finding the true answer but about someone being right and the others being wrong.  So, I'm not trying to say that we shouldn't search and discover the truth, or point out huge fallacies such as racist based wrong doings because that is indeed very important BUT I'd like to take a deeper look into the attitude and energy behind being right, especially on the one-on-one personal level.

When I think I'm right whether it's about a fact, belief, opinion or philosophy and so does the other person in the conversation, one of us is very likely not right and possibly even both of us may be wrong or we may both be right, all depending on the topic and circumstances.  When I make every possible attempt to show you how right I am it means I'm showing you how wrong you are, which doesn't necessarily make you feel very good.  I noticed that this can even happen when my showing my rightness is meant to relieve someone from discomfort.

We had my uncle and his girlfriend in town and they were over for our 2nd Indian take-out dinner with my mom and sister and niece.  Most of the group have a hard time with spice so we ordered raita, a yogurt based side dish that can help ease the pains of spiciness.  Well, after everyone was sweating from the fire in their mouths and even the raita wasn't helping, I remembered that sometimes restaurants have been known to spice their raita.  I tasted it by itself and it did indeed seem spiced.  I had my sister and husband try too to make sure I wasn't sensing the spice from another dish.  Then I began spreading the news, so the really sensitive mouths might spare themselves from further burning.  My mother insisted the other bowl of raita next to her wasn't spicy but tears were streaming down her face due to the fire burning in her mouth.  So, we did another 3 party taste test and that raita was indeed spicy.

But in the process of proving my rightness, even though it was to be for the benefit of all those in the room, I proved my mother wrong which based on her reaction didn't make her feel better - even if it was going to put the fire in her mouth out.  She still had a sense of irritation by my needing to prove my rightness.  But you may be thinking, "But you were right!"  Well, I was right but that doesn't mean I needed to loudly and brashly prove my mother was wrong (a beautiful mother daughter tradition ;-)  This is a dangerously slippery slope that doesn't have the same approach each time.

In my 20-20 hindsight, I think next time I may simply say, "Maybe I'm wrong.  It seems spicy to me but it's possible that I'm wrong."  Or I could have said, with a sincere tone, "I'm sorry for offending you, I really was only trying to spare you further discomfort."  In other circumstances we could also say, "I think this is right, but I'm not 100% sure.  Shall we look into it together?"  or "I may be wrong."  Even if we feel like we are 100% right, the attitude can really make a difference in how we make others feel.  There is a certain level of humility that we attain when we realize we are not always right.  I have learned to admit being wrong as well as reduce the need to prove my rightness, though I'm not perfect so it does happen.  But I do notice I feel better when I'm not out to prove myself right and admit that I can make mistakes!  Allowing others to have some rightness and accepting our wrongness can actually have an amazing affect on our relationships...

Breathe.  Be Right and Wrong.  Be Wonderful.

There's an interesting TedTalks by Kathryn Schultz on this and Richard Carlson's Chapter 12 on pg 33 of his "Don't Sweat the small stuff" book also has a great perspective too!

The photo for this post is from Exsodus's profile on Free Digital Photos.

1 comment:

RK said...

Another great post Jo. Also when thinking about this topic I'm reminded of that great Modern Family episode "Punkin Chunkin":