Being right feels great.
We assume that when a person is right they have considered all the angles, worldviews, every factor, research, history, past errors, hidden biases, and a lot more. But such a case is rare.
Sure, there are right ways to market a product, speak at an interview, or shake someone’s hand. But many times in your life, you’ll come to a point when being right isn’t the best possible solution, nor is it likely to help you in anyway, although the illusion of it is incredibly alluring.
The pursuit of being right is a short-term game. You may win, maybe even get someone to change their mind, but possibly at a cost. You may be right that your partner was wrong. You may be right about the person who uploaded a selfie for the 4th time today may indeed be narcissistic.
But what being right does is blind you from change and from the things that you potentially missed. How profoundly different would your perspective be if you considered the things that you missed? When we’re right, we rarely consider the alternatives. A mind made up is difficult to change. Most of the time it isn’t even a thought. “Wait, is there another way to see this?”. Once we’re on the path of righteousness, we cut down any signs that may be saying otherwise.
The pursuit of understanding, I think, is far more rewarding and helpful. And that requires a new mindset — a conscious effort to seek an understanding rather than trying to have your opinions masquerade as truth.
When you seek an understanding, you’re considering all the things that you normally wouldn’t. You are seeking to understand why things are the way they are, versus how they ought to be based on your demands and expectations.
For a long time I felt anger for anyone who took selfies on a daily basis. “How narcissistic and sad,” I would tell myself. But this thinking made me bitter. Any time I scrolled through my Instagram feed and was faced with a face, bad thoughts were created. It was through education — putting on another person’s glasses and seeing the world through their eyes — that helped me change my mind.
Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, said:
“The topic of narcissism has penetrated the social consciousness enough that most people correctly associate it with a pattern of behaviors that include grandiosity, a pervasive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. What almost no one understands is how every level of severity in this diagnosis is underpinned by shame. Which means we don’t ‘fix it’ by cutting people down to size and reminding folks of their inadequacies and smallness. Shame is more likely to be the cause of these behaviors, not the cure.For example, when I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose. Sometimes the simple act of humanizing problems sheds an important light on them, a light that often goes out the minute a stigmatizing label is applied. This new definition of narcissism offers clarity and it illuminates both the source of the problem and the possible solutions.”
When I came across those two paragraphs, I sat back and really thought about my thinking and behavior towards this particular subject. Is she right or wrong? Doesn’t matter to me. It’s a perspective based off a lot of research and experience; it’s a perspective that ultimately removes negativity from my life and allows me to look at the problem differently. She may be wrong for all we know, but this perspective is far more fruitful than the one I previously chose to embrace.
I could have stayed on the pursuit of being right — that, hey, anyone who takes selfies are crying for attention, are bored, narcissistic, sad, and I should treat them accordingly — but that’s ultimately wrong, and it doesn’t make me a better person. That’s an obstruction.
You may be right that the education system is busted, but by understanding its history and why it is the way it is, it should provide a sense of urgency that watching television and blaming things outside of your control isn’t going to teach you what you need to be learning.
You may be right that your partner should have been more courageous in telling the truth, but by understanding why it was so difficult for them to do so — their personality, how they react to adversity or stress, etc. — can lead to growth, compassion, teamwork, and less angry tweets.
You may be right that taking selfies and seeking validation through social media is an ineffective way of building confidence and self-esteem, but by understanding why a person is compelled to do those behaviors, understanding psychology and the ways we use technology in our lives, should mitigate the need to point fingers and think that others are flawed and you aren’t.
Being right is about folding your arms; choosing to understand is about opening them.