The Right-Wrong Maelstrom


“I am right and you are wrong,” is a pervasive, destructive subtext in many of our conversations at work and home. We fight each other, sometimes in very clever ways, just to avoid being wrong. It’s a big problem that tends to drag us down and down. I have seen it rot individual relationships, harm careers, disable teams, scuttle projects, and even hobble a multi-billion-dollar company.

Yet there is no need to fight over right or wrong.

We can replace this need entirely with the win-win-or-don’t-play principle. First, we listen. Then we clarify and confirm our understanding of what outcomes (as opposed to specific approaches or actions) they seek. Next, we help them understand what outcomes we seek. Finally, we put our heads together to find solutions that help us both win. Or, if we can’t, we choose not to proceed together on this opportunity. In this approach, there is no room for fighting to be right.

Next time you catch yourself arguing, positioning, countering, fighting, or even avoiding others for fear they may try to be right/make you wrong, try changing the dynamic by learning what outcomes the other person really wants.


In your corner,


PS: This version of right-wrong is distinct from merely seeking the truth about a matter. For example, the following conversation is most likely about the simple truth.

“The sine of pi is 1.”
“No, it’s 0. Look at this graph.”
“Ah, yes. Thank you.”

We can tell by how it feels. If we feel bad (maybe challenged, disrespected, rejected, or threatened) while discussing whether we are right of not, we are not merely seeking truth.


Today’s photo credit: στρατός cc

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