releasing the need to be right in argument

Releasing the Need To Be Right

“Would you rather be right or be happy?”

That’s an excellent question posed by A Course in Miracles. Of course, it can be lovely to feel both right and happy. But exactly what is right?

All of us have our own perspective, our own opinion. We all see the world through a different lens. Often there may be no absolute right or wrong, true or false, fact or fiction. Just an entire spectrum of shades of gray.

Sometimes releasing the need to be right in certain situations brings us a greater sense of freedom and happiness. You’re free to believe what you choose while allowing others to experience their own reality.

woman contemplatingIf a discussion arises in which there are differences of opinion, stop and ask yourself if the topic at hand is so important to you. If the subject really isn’t that big of a deal to you, can you just let it go?

Dealing with Difficulty

The other night I was visited by a regular client who’s been stressed out that her mother is coming to visit for a few weeks to help take care of her imminently due infant. Already, they are having tense phone discussions over the details of the delivery – for example, should she go through with natural childbirth, or have a C-section if the baby is overdue?

Once my client’s baby and mom are both here, there will certainly be many opportunities to disagree over what’s right for the newborn. While my client is grateful for her mother’s help, the two have historically had a difficult relationship.

Often, my client felt like she wasn’t heard or taken seriously growing up, so she as an adult she’s had a tendency to raise her voice in a way that may have led people to tune her out more than listen in when times get tense. She developed an admitted need to get the last word.

We’ve worked on her communication issues in hypnotherapy, and she says she’s made good progress. “I’ve been much better at catching myself when I fall into old patterns and creating new ways to think,” she told me.

New Strategy

Before her recent Reiki healing session, she asked if I could ask for any spiritual guidance on issues important to her right now. I heard a phrase that she could use to deal with her mom, even if she doesn’t necessarily agree with what’s being said.

I explained that instead of raising her voice, helping polarize their stances, she could simply say in a sincere, calm fashion: “I value your input, and I’ll take it into consideration.” My client wrote it down, seeming very soothed to have a fallback statement for dealing with a mother who likely wants to feel heard and validated as much as her daughter.

This is a strategy that could be helpful to all of us. If a subject really isn’t that important, perhaps saying, “Yes, I see your point of view” – and then moving onto another topic – would be a better course of action. Saying that doesn’t mean that you have to follow-through with some recommendation with which you disagree.

Perhaps feeling acknowledged, the people you’re dealing with will be more likely to listen to what you have to say. They might relax and become more open to new ideas.

On the other hand, you might find yourself coming around to the other person’s point of view, once you’ve given yourself time to reflect. Sometimes when I experience a strong feeling of resistance, there actually might be something I need to seriously reconsider.

Checking In

So next time you’re in a discussion and the tension is rising to argumentative levels, take a few deep breaths. Then ask yourself, “Is this so important?”

In the past, I’ve gotten as worked up over stupid stuff as anybody. For example, years ago I was the music critic for my university newspaper, and I remember being baffled by an college acquaintance who kept insisting that band mates Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie were sisters. As someone with a treasure trove of music trivia knowledge (not to mention a big fan of the band Fleetwood Mac), I just knew that she was wrong.

But she wouldn’t concede that I had greater expertise on that matter (note: this was well before you could look up any fact on your phone). Even after I detailed the band’s history, she just kept insisting, “Well, that’s what I always heard.” Which was rather maddening to me at the time.

Why did I care so much? Did making my case as strongly as I did improve my life in any way? Or was it just an energy drain?

shades of gray

Shades of Gray

That scenario is definitely one with a right or wrong answer. But what if you’re in gray-colored territory?

For example, maybe you’re discussing the best way to tackle a project at work. You recommend a more efficient solution, but your boss is stuck in a rut of doing things the way they’ve always been done. You want things to run better, to be recognized for what you have to offer the organization. But you feel like you’re falling on deaf ears.

All you can do is make your case in a calm, confident manner. If the supervisor insists that their way is better, at some point you might just try nodding in agreement and saying, “Oh, I see.” Nodding reassuringly and listening objectively can really sooth a big ego.

And once the threat to her authority and wisdom has dissipated, you might even find that she goes off and reflects on the issue. She might think it over and even come to the conclusion that it was her own idea.

Can your ego handle that? If you feel that you really need to take ownership of an idea, it’s okay to voice that as well. But question first how important it really is to you. There is no “I” in team, as they say.

Fear Factor

Some people just have a burning need to be right. Where does it come from? Fear is the most likely answer. Fear that they don’t have as much control over a situation as they would like. Fear that people won’t recognize how smart they are – or the opposite fear that people will discover they don’t know enough; that people will realize they’re a “fraud” (a common fear among perfectionists).

Maybe they’re super-competitive and afraid of their ego taking a hit. It’s their way or the highway.

Some people don’t deal well with ambiguity. Think of religious zealots (their belief is the only correct one) or those with extreme political views. For these people, things are often black or white; right or wrong.

Open to Debate

I noticed an interesting trend in the realm of social media during the fall 2012 presidential election. At least in the world of Facebook, people had the power to insulate themselves from ideas unlike their own through de-friending.

This was essentially the language of a post that was shared many times over: “If you plan on voting for (fill in the blank), just go ahead and de-friend me now.”

I have my own political views, and I certainly vote for candidates who best represent what I believe. But I worry about a world in which we can filter out what we see and hear to the point that there’s no room for reasonable discussion of what’s best for society. Are some people so determined to be “right” that they’ve eliminated any room for compromise?

Leading by Example

The older I get, the less energy I have to dedicate to arguments that may never be settled completely. I’m more focused on my own healing and leading by example. I can’t decide for others when it’s time to heal. As spiritual counselor and author Louise Hay says, “Healing myself is the best thing I can do for others.”

Sometimes it can be frustrating because we can so clearly see what’s “right” for someone else’s progress. For example, there may be a younger relative or a good friend whom we care about and don’t want to see make a major misstep. We might strongly feel that we know what would be the best course of action for their schooling, relationship and employment choices.

Again, all can do is calmly, reasonably make our case. But sometimes we just have to let people make mistakes – give them permission to make the “wrong” choice. That’s often how we learn – by making mistakes.

Sometimes I can hear the lecturing tone of my mother channeling through me when an issue pushes one of my buttons (such as people not demonstrating enough responsibility in caring for their animals). I recently had a discussion with a friend who has no plans to tag his new pet. I caught myself wanting to use language like “You should…” or “You must…” that could throw up his walls of defense.

Instead I chose to plant a helpful seed by calming saying, “Once you tag your pet, you can rest so much easier. If he gets loose, you know that he can always be found quickly.” I hope that idea takes root, but I have to let go of worrying about it.

Rising to the Challenge

As I began writing this article, I was amused (but not terribly surprised) that life again challenged my own need to be right. It was as if a Higher Power were saying, “Oh, you think you’ve got this figured out, do you?”

I was only a few paragraphs in while using my laptop at a friend’s house. I noticed that his love of smoothies had led to a fruit fly problem in his kitchen, so I offered to help him set a trap (involving a funnel of paper inserted into a glass full of vinegar).

Typically possessing much more handy-dandy genius than I do – and apparently a much stronger drive to be right – he cut me off, insisting that he knew how to do it. “I know what I’m doing!” But as I watched him pick up a piece of paper that wasn’t nearly large enough, I just knew that he didn’t. I learned that this type of trap was just something he heard about once.

Keeping Calm

I could have been offended that I wasn’t being acknowledged for this little bit of expertise I had. I could have blurted out, “You need to listen to me! I know what I’m talking about!”

Instead, I said in a firm but calm voice: “I know that you’re normally a domestic whiz. But I once had to deal with this issue a few times from juicing. I figured out some ways to make the trap more effective. I would love to help you out with this knowledge.”

But no, he wasn’t accepting my assistance. So I thought, “Hey, it’s not my kitchen!” – and I got back to writing.

But within minutes I heard a question about the trap coming from the kitchen, and then another, and another. And soon I was building the trap for him, helping him solve the problem. His ego just needed a little time to process the situation.

right or wrong way sign

Looking Within

What about times when we don’t know what’s “right”? We look outside ourselves for what we should do. It’s perfectly okay to seek outside counsel, but ultimately it’s best to trust your own intuition or gut feeling. We often end up regretting it when we ignore that inner voice, thinking in hindsight, “I knew I have should have done that!”

Sometimes I see clients who are so afraid of making mistakes that they not only second-guess themselves, but also feel paralyzed about making some decisions at all. They might want someone else to make them instead.

Unfortunately, sometimes the people we seek counsel from aren’t affirming of our goals – for example, going back to school or starting our own business. We can end up wasting a lot of energy convincing others that we’re on the right track that would have been better spent on creating our new reality.

Trusting Yourself

I find myself having to encourage many clients to follow their inner guidance, giving them affirmations like: “I trust my ability to make good decisions. I know that it’s okay to make mistakes while learning. I know that I have the ability to accomplish anything I set my mind to.” It’s best when these are giving during hypnosis, so that they can make a deeper imprint on the subconscious mind.

For the aforementioned client who had been stressed out about whether to have another C-section (not her preferred option) with her second child, I gave her the hypnotic suggestion, “When the time comes, I know that I’ll make the best decision for me and my baby.” Listening to the recording of that hypno-birthing session repeatedly has really calmed her anxiety about making the right call, she says.

Often during Reiki energywork sessions, spirit communicates through me about issues that are affecting clients mentally and emotionally. I always ask for messages that could help clients better understand their life path and healing needs.

When I gently share these at the end of sessions to help people connect the dots on potential imbalances in their lives, I always say, “If these impressions resonate as right for you, you can make a note of them. Otherwise, you can just let them go. I could be wrong.”

Of course, I’m usually right ;).