Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Being Right Doesn't Mean You Win

In the working world, we try not to show our weaknesses, concentrating instead on displaying our strengths. We respond to others with confident tones, argue our point of view firmly and lead with authority.

Too bad we’re not always right.

This may be a hard concept to grasp for some people, especially those who have risen in the ranks because they are always right. But it is true that those who become the most rigid in their attitudes -- who always have to have the right answer and must always prove others wrong -- are not only annoying, but well, wrong.

While it is ingrained in us from the time we are young that we must strive for the “right” answer, must sit “right” and look “right” -- and we will somehow be shamed for being wrong, we start to confuse being right with winning. And it's not the same thing at all.

Often, managers are the most guilty of the “always right” atittude, and can be very defensive if they are challenged. But by denying there is anything left to learn, we undermine ourselves and our companies. Failing to acknowledge that other people may have the right answer can lose the respect of others and cause real morale problems.

The most successful teams and the most successful individuals challenge each other to come up with the best idea and the best process. The key is being able to say to someone: "You were right. That is a better idea. Thank you.’”

Still,letting go of being right all the time takes courage. You may have to admit that you are insecure about being "wrong", but are willing to make yourself vulnerable so that you can learn and grow.

If you realize that your “right” attitude has gone too far, the first thing you need to do is admit you have a problem -- that's often half the battle. Then:
* Define what winning looks like to you. Think about what you really want, considering how you feel about an issue and what personal experiences come into play.
* Look at how often your need to be right really interferes with what you want. If you shut people down by interrupting them with your “right” solution, or they turn away because you have proven them “wrong,” write it down. Note what happened and what the result was (damaged relationship, less creative interactions, etc.) The key will be to later figure out what would have been a better response.
* Define your fear or anxiety. If you can’t be right, what will be your strategy to deal with that? Tell yourself over and over that it’s okay to win, but you don’t have to be right.
* Ask more questions. Become curious. Those who are always right don’t try to find out what other people may know. Only after someone has given you an answer do you respond with your perspective. That starts a dialogue, and that begins the learning process.
* Step into the unknown. Focus on the shades of gray. Notice how often your thinking is automatically right versus wrong. Argue the other side of the issue first, and look to see the larger perspective.


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