When being right may be wrong

by Dr. Ken Larsen

It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.”   — Pete Seege

acceptance-belief-change

We were living in Salinas.  Not far from where Bobby McGee slipped away.  I was in 5th grade and struggling with a major metamorphosis in my thinking and beliefs.  I was beginning to realize that playing cowboys with toy guns was something that kids did.  I was beginning to believe that I was no longer a kid and needed to put aside childish games like cowboys.  I was also beginning to notice that girls were more interesting than I had thought not too long before.  In hindsight, this awareness of a new way of thinking and behaving was an essential step in my development as a person.  What was most interesting was the slow and gradual dawning of a new self-concept pointing to a need to change.  It was not sudden or abrupt, but sort of crept up on me.  I also came to see that I had to make a choice to achieve that change.

I believe many of us in our culture and in our world are facing a similar growing awareness of our need to put aside some of our childish beliefs and behaviors and move on and into a new awareness of who we are as adults in our humanity.

What I’m getting at is the truth in the phrase “the world is divided by those who think they are right.”

I have lost friends in discussions where both of us were convinced we were right.  This “being right” seemed so important that it came out as a criticism and condemnation of the other person’s point of view.

When both parties are enmeshed in the trap of “I’m right and you’re wrong” what kind of an outcome can be expected?

Far too often there is a cascade of anger, hurt feelings and ultimately alienation from one another.

Dr. Glasser helped us see the universal need in all of us for love and belonging.  The need to be connected to one another is built into our genetic makeup.  Dr. Glasser also challenged us to evaluate what we were doing and saying in our relationships by asking the question “is what I’m doing (or going to do) bringing us closer together or driving us further apart.”

I’ve seen that insistence on my point of view as being the right point of view is a flawed approach to connecting with others.  If I really want to draw closer to another, I’m working on creatively growing into learning new and more life giving ways to have a conversation.  If I believe that “live and let live” is a valid way to be with others who see things differently, then I believe I’m making progress.

I find it more interesting to get to know a person as a unique member of our human family before I get too busy trying to convince anyone of how my opinion is superior to theirs.

And my mental health and happiness are enhanced when I’m working to understand rather than insisting I be understood.

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