Coin with opposing views

Right and Wrong

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

I have been friends with a woman for many years. We met when we were both young teachers just starting out. She is one of my best friends, so I feel disloyal but I need help with our friendship.

We can be having the nicest time during our weekly lunch date, when all of a sudden, she goes off on something. From politics to flowers on the table at the restaurant, she has to be right about everything! Quite often she has her facts wrong and even if she had them right, she insists her view is the only view. Pity the person who disagrees with her. She just won’t quit until she thinks she’s won.

I’ve put up with this for years and all of a sudden, I just can’t take it anymore.  I’m tired of it but in every other way she’s a wonderful person. What can I possibly do?

Tired of Being Wrong

Dear Reader:

Ah, the need to be right! Throughout my career, I have witnessed this destructive behavior countless times. From intimate relationships to corporate policy making, people dig in their heels and pursue the validity of their opinion at all costs. It’s a pattern that wastes time, energy, and emotions.

It’s also fairly understandable communication pattern. We are a nation founded on believing in the freedom of choice … just as long as you agree with me. (We should have paid much more attention to how the Native People of this land were approaching life. Things might have been a whole lot better for everyone involved!) But no, most of our ancestors arrived on these shores in search of a home where their way would be the right way. (Odd isn’t it. Our Founding Father’s typically fled cultures where they were persecuted for their beliefs only to end up doing exactly the same thing to others once they made their way across the pond.)

Opinions, and how right they are, seem to be one of our cultural standards. It’s pretty simply thinking actually. If I’m right, I cannot be wrong and as we all know, it’s a terrible thing to be wrong. Feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, even shame follow on the heels of even the most simple mistakes.

All of this starts at a very young age. How many of you refused to raise your hand in school because you were afraid to be wrong?

We are also a  highly competitive nation. Whether on the playing field, the classroom, or the boardroom, “winning” is typically the goal. And how do you win? By being right!

Currently, the impact of this dysfunctional right/wrong thinking has led to one of the most significant political gridlocks this nation has experienced in years. Critical decisions affecting all of us cannot be reached because people are so absolutely invested in believing their side of an issue is the right side. When did compromise become such a dirty word? Ah, human nature. It can leave so much to be desired.

As for your friend, how about saying something like, “We are dear friends but at this point in life, I’ve decided I really don’t want to get too worked up about things. I find it doesn’t make me feel very good. I understand you have strong opinions and I’m not trying to change them, but there are times when I just need to relax. I trust that, as my friend, you understand this. So how about we try something different? When I’m in this kind of mood, I’ll just tell you: “Friend, it’s one of those days. Can we please pass on how the flowers look and talk about something else? Or I might also simply suggest that we agree to disagree.”

Expressing yourself respectfully, assertively, and consistently takes practice. But the payoffs are significant; less resentment, discord, and lunches that are  much more enjoyable.

(Click here to return to The Second Half online archives)