In the workplace, in sports and in relationships there is a high priority placed on who is right. I had the great pleasure of seeing Edward G. Hochuli speak last year at a conference. He is a NFL referee and has been for some 20 plus years. He studies the rules of the game every day…all year. Yes; every day. This is a guy who has to get it right or he’ll receive thousands of emails, bad press and public ridicule. How about you?
I think this illustrates the importance that is placed on rules and, in turn, who is right. The problem is this can be counterproductive in the workplace. Having the last word and being right has the potential to be really damaging to the relationships around you. Even Dr. Phil, whether you like him or not, refers to Right-fighters. It’s the perfect term for those who are mono-focused on winning their point at all costs.
Think about it for a moment. Who was the last know it all that you enjoyed being around, or collaborating with, or, worst of all, reporting to. I’d like to suggest that maybe we should try to just let that ego attachment go. This can be quite a challenge especially for any of us baby boomers out there who had to line up for recess, cross the street at the cross walk and never raised their hand in class unless they were positive they had the right answer.
I think that Dale Carnegie got it right when, in his principles for “Win People to Your Way of Thinking”, he said “Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
So you’re probably wondering how to you bite your tongue when our culture and workplace have placed such a high priority on being right?
Here are 5 ways to find peace and do that:
1. Listen. Figure out if there is something you can find agreement on. You might disagree with the direction of the project at hand but you might be able to agree that you’ve got the right team assembled and that you will not all agree but you all need to listen and respect others opinions. There must be that acknowledgement that you’re all trying to get to completion and benefit from the process. Listen for agreement.
2. Reflect. Reflect on the impact. How important is it to put someone in their place? What will you gain from it in the end? What will this do to the value of your “stock”? In, other words, who else is going to want to work with you or value your opinion if you are constantly pointing out that you are right….and therefore, everyone else, is wrong. Reflect before you start pointing your finger.
3. Patience. Is this the time and place to “put this person in their place”? If this is your direct report, a peer or, worse yet, your boss…think long and hard about how this might damage your relationship. At least find a more opportune time (i.e. less embarrassing) to sit down and listen to their reasoning and talk it out so that you come to a common understanding. Swallow your pride and be patient.
4. Check in. What is your own ego saying to you? Are you really that dependent on being right to feel good…to have self-respect? Is this the measure of your self-worth? Do you really want to be known as that Right Person at the expense of all else? Check in to keep your ego at bay.
5. Silence. It’s golden. In this world of bombarding news, marketing and media; sometimes silence is the most powerful message you can have and share with others. Just keep your mouth shut and embrace silence.
Several of my coaching clients keep track of when they try to make a personal change. They will record every time they change their perspective on a situation and the way they changed their reaction. See if you can give up on the almighty rightness and find peace.
It’s good to ask yourself on a fairly regular basis – When was the last time you “fell on the sword” and let someone else be right? Leave a comment below so we can all learn.