When I was a teenager I always wanted to be right and for everyone to know that I was right.
I would argue my point of view ‘seven ways till Sunday’ to prove that I was right and even if it didn’t start as an argument it frequently became one.
Now when I look back on it I see an anxious teenager desperate to be taken seriously. Back then, I put a lot of effort into what must have been very tiresome for everyone I was attempting to prove ‘wrong’.
I like to think that I am over that teenage phase but from time to time I seem to find myself needing to be right.
Of course if you need to be right the other person needs to be wrong, you can’t both be right.
If you have ever been treated as the person who is wrong then you’ll know that it’s not a fun position to be in. Your own needs to be heard and respected can be pushed to one side.
If I need to be right then it can cause a lot of stress and lead to conflict. From the point of view of the person who thinks they are right:
- If I am right then the other person is wrong.
- If they disagree with my point of view then I need to defend it, to make stronger arguments, speak more forcefully to convince them.
- If they still disagree then their point of view becomes an assault on me and what I hold dear. The other person is not only wrong they are hostile towards me. They are obviously both stupid and bad and must be defeated.
For the other person, the one who is ‘in the wrong’ it’s even worse. They might think like this:
- There they go again, they only think that they are right, but I know that they are wrong and that I am right!
- When I tell them what they think is the ‘wrong’ side of the story they get defensive, arguing their side more loudly and more forcibly. They are trying to bully me into agreeing with them, but, in fact, I am right and they are wrong (not that they would ever admit it).
- They can’t handle the truth, every attempt I make to show them that I am right, and they are wrong, makes them more aggressive and intransigent. They are obviously both stupid and bad and must be defeated.
On a personal level this kind of thing is not good for our relationships. On a political and geopolitical scale this escalation can have terrible consequences.
Even though I thought I’d mostly given up the “I need to be right” attitude, it still crops up from time to time (I have it on good authority that it is because I am a man!). It’s depressing and distressing to find how easily I can slip into the destructive ping-pong game of I’m right and you’re wrong.