The Wrong in Being Right
October 6, 2009 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink

supreme_court_buildingThis post on the blog Straight Talk on Relationships goes right to the heart of a common relationship toxin. So many of us get caught up in self righteousness when we fight. It’s hard to stop, but it is a great goal!


by Lisa Merlo Booth

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who constantly corrects you or argues their case?  For example, you’re talking to your partner about how hurt you were when he called you “needy” and he says, “I didn’t call you needy, I said you can be needy sometimes.”  When you try to move past the point by saying that either way it didn’t feel good, he won’t let it go. He goes on to explain what truly happened:  “I think it’s an important distinction.  I would never call you needy.  I think if you realized what I REALLY said that you would see that you’re getting upset is silly.”  (As I’m sure you readers are aware of–this would drive Gandhi crazy–in fact, it’s driving me crazy just writing about it).

This “innocent” correcting is what Terry Real terms the losing strategy of “being right”.  Being right may sound harmless, but make no mistake, it’s not. In fact, being right can be treacherous in a relationship.  When a person is forever arguing the facts, they fail to listen to the message. Instead of being a loving partner, they become a trial attorney.  Here’s a real-life example of this at play:

Sarah: Honey, I really don’t like the way you treat me.  You talk down to me, you call me stupid, you tell me I don’t know what I’m doing.  I just don’t feel like you respect me or like me.
Scott: When did I call you stupid?  You tell me one time when I called you stupid?  I may have said you were acting stupid but I never called you stupid.
Sarah: You may not have said it directly but you and I know that’s what you meant.
Scott: But did I call you that? No.  Let’s be clear that I did not call you that.
Sarah: Okay Scott, you didn’t explicitly call me stupid.  I just get the sense that’s how you see me.  I feel you talk down to me.
Scott: We both agree I never called you stupid.  See this is what you do.  You make a big issue out of something that didn’t even happen.

Yikes!  Scott is so caught up in being right about the verbiage that he has totally lost site of her message.  The ripple effect of people having to be right is their partners are always wrong.  Eventually the partner stops trying to share their opinions, concerns or upsets; it’s not worth the hassle.  They know that if they do share this information, their partner’s going to turn it around on them and keep doing what their doing anyway.

In the end, one partner grows more and more resentful while the other partner grows more and more right.  Because there is little avenue for repair, the resentful partner is struck with the scary reality that this relationship is not going to change.  They then have to figure out if it’s worth it to stay knowing that almost every issue is going to be a win-lose battle (with them on the losing side almost every time).  Staying, without change from their partner, will be a long, hard and near impossible road to travel.

If you struggle with the being right affliction, know that it is toxic in relationships.  Stop acting like a lawyer arguing your case, and step in as an accountable partner listening to another person’s story.

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  1. Liz
    October 6th, 2009 | 9:37 pm

    Lisa describes the ‘being right affliction’ in such clear, coherent terms. The dialogue between the couple reminds me of so many arguments with my husband where he finds himself on the receiving end of the lawyer approach to communicating. This behavior in relationships can unfortunately spiral into the regular back and forth with your partner – toxic and debilitating.

  2. Carrie D.
    October 10th, 2009 | 10:29 pm

    I do this too. My husband says he feels like he’s on the stand. I hate to admit but HE’S RIGHT!

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