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.
I wanted to come up with a way of defusing the pattern of “I’m right and you’re wrong” so that I could better deal with the issue at hand without getting caught up in the emotional pattern of ‘attack and counter-attack’.
In my case the pattern of attack and counter attack usually only happens below the surface of what I say – an internal grumbling, huffing and puffing about how it’s not fair and any right thinking person should be able to see that I’m right. Just because it’s not being spoken out loud doesn’t make it less poisonous.
The problem with this routine is not that I’m right and they are wrong (and just don’t see it) but that I have stepped into the emotional pattern and adopted its win or lose mentality.
Now that I’m committed to my point of view I have to win and the other person has to lose (or vice versa). The end of the contest is that one of us has won (feeling smugly superior and justified) and the other person has lost (feeling dismissed and unheard). Whichever way it turns out that’s one win and two losses (the other person and the relationship as a whole).
This pattern is poisonous to most kinds of relationship: personal, friendship, family or business. And like the ‘best’ poisons you probably don’t know you’ve taken it until it’s too late.
Rather than getting sucked into the game, I wanted a way to lose the “I’m right/You’re wrong” dynamic so that whatever disagreement I found myself in I could be able to:
- Acknowledge and express my point of view to my satisfaction
- Acknowledge their point of view to their satisfaction
- Look for common ground where we could find some kind of win for both of us and our relationship.
This is the process I came up with for beyond the ‘I’m right / You’re wrong’ game. For those who have tried it, the process seems to work well with minor disagreements among partners, family and friends.
Note: If your disagreements involve long running feuds, personal insults or physical threats to your safety then you are going to need other kinds of help beyond this simple process.
This is the simplest approach that could possibly work:
Alternating one round of tapping “I am right” and “s/he is wrong” with a second round reversing those statements “S/he is right” and “I am wrong”.
- Assess the intensity of the conflict and how constricted you feel in this context.
- First round of tapping
- EB: I am right
- SE: and s/he is wrong
- UE: I am right
- UN: and s/he is wrong
- Second round of tapping
- EB: S/he is right
- SE: and I am wrong
- UE: S/he is right
- UN: and I am wrong
- Once again assess the intensity of the conflict and how constricted you feel in this context.
If you are lucky this will be enough to get you into a more balanced, less stressed perspective.
However, the sudden switch from “I am right” to “I am wrong” can be a bit jarring and the reversal of perspective a little too abrupt for your system to take. In that case you can use the extended protocol to make the transition a little softer and easier to digest.
This approach follows the swapping of perspectives approach adding some more depth with an internal exploration of “I’m right” and “they are wrong” by inviting our minds to explore the ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’ of both positions while tapping.
- Assess the intensity of the conflict
- First round
- EB: I’m right
- SE: and S/he is wrong
- UE: and I’m right
- UN: and S/he is wrong
- Second round
- EB: In how many ways am I right?
- SE: and in how many ways is s/he wrong?
- UE: and in how many ways am I right?
- UN: and in how many ways is s/he wrong?
- Third round
- EB: In how many ways am I wrong?
- SE: and in how many ways is s/he right?
- UE: and in how many ways am I wrong?
- UN: and in how many ways is s/he right?
- Fourth round
- EB: I am wrong
- SE: and S/he is right
- UE: and I am wrong
- UN: and S/he is right
- Once again assess the intensity of the conflict and how you perceive your different positions.
What people typically find after these rounds of tapping is that the conflict part of the disagreement doesn’t seem so important and that it’s possible to see the other person’s perspective without having to judge it and your own perspective without having to defend it.
This is a much better place to start any discussions.
When to use this?
- If you are lucky enough to have a tapping savvy partner you could both use this pattern when the conflict arises.
- If you notice that you have fallen into this “I’m right – You’re wrong” pattern then you can use this tapping process after the event to be able to step out of it, so your next interactions with that person can start from a different place.
- If you are constantly getting into this emotional pattern with a specific person it might be useful to dig into what is driving this response and where it came from.
It’s too early to say whether using this technique on a regular basis will completely free me from the “I’m right – you’re wrong” but so far I think it’s making me and my discussions less tiresome.