Everywhere this week, I was struck by our human tendency to be strong in our right-ness. Even today in the car, as we debated whether to go North or South on Route 100, the energy was a bit fiery. We were both sure, then I was sure, then he was sure. In the end, I was right. High-five to me (from me)! What was that about?  Why so much energy? Because we both actually believed we were correct. In this case, the question was a simple, factual debate. However, the problem is bigger and more important on the many more complex topics of life and work.

The root of the problem is two-fold:

  1. For so many things, there is no clear “right.” Who says that people should behave a certain way? Who says that organizations should be expected to do that?
  2. Our pushing energy often creates undesirable outcomes, whether sourced in passion for the topic, knowledge or expertise protected, or some other commitment or fear. Pushing energy can create withdrawal or attack; both initiate loss.

Let’s unfold the second problem by my own self-reflection:

  • I have been known to forcefully interrupt people when I think I know more about the topic than they do.
  • I sometimes notice my monologue for way too many minutes on a subject for which I have a passion or expertise.
  • I can get stuck in my view when I feel challenged by someone I respect or someone I don’t like.

All of these habits set up a barrier to understanding the topic, the person, or my own ideas.This week listen to yourself and check any automatic advocacy for something you believe is right. Instead, stop yourself and:

  • Ask more questions to inform your view.
  • Learn about how the other person thinks.
  • And, maybe confirm where you are “right.”

Lastly, give yourself a break. Smart people know a lot and often have strong views. You don’t want to lose that trait, either.