People are weird. By that I mean that as a species we have odd tendencies that set us apart from all other living forms. Our desire to be right is one such tendency. At a workshop I was recently at the presenter, Dr. David Burns, shared an extreme story of road rage that had happened in the U.S. Tragically, it ended the life of young man and paralyzed another. Dr. Burns recounted that the man responsible, now serving a life sentence in prison, showed little remorse and felt he was justified in his actions because the two young men had been riding his bumper. While this might be a unique example of going to extremes to be right, we can often get caught up in ‘right fighting’ in our day to day relationships.
I find that many couples who come to counselling want to make changes in their relationship, but are often quick to suggest that it is their partner who is causing the issues. I sometimes feel like I am trying to be persuaded as to who is right and therefore, wrong, in the issues. Think about that for a moment. If we always trying to prove that we are right, that means our partner is wrong. How does that feel? Let’s be honest – no one like to be wrong, it’s a crappy feeling.
One of my supervisors showed me a really interesting way to highlight this idea to couples. He had me draw a big “M” on a paper. He then asked me to flip it upside down. Now it was a “W.” The letter changes depending on what way the paper is held. Same idea hold true for many issues couples might face – the issue changes depending on whose perspective you are looking at it from. If we can give up our need to be right we have a better chance of understanding our partner and hopefully of being understood.