“Stay hungry, stay young, stay foolish, stay curious, and above all, stay humble because just when you think you got all the answers, is the moment when some bitter twist of fate in the universe will remind you that you very much don’t.” ― Tom Hiddleston
There are many times I catch myself in the vice of being right. I know I am right about something, so how can I tolerate the words of someone who is clearly wrong? The first thing I need to understand, is having my own opinion and feeling strongly about that opinion does not make me right, nor does it make the other person wrong. They’re opinions. We’re the ones who arbitrarily made one right and the other wrong.
I think most of us have a fear of being wrong, of having to swallow our pride. I do. Somehow I feel that if I was wrong about something, that makes me less of a person. My ego gets bruised and I forget that in order to grow, sometimes I have to admit when I was wrong, and that’s okay.
What if, we were never actually wrong? What if, in that set of circumstances at that time in our lives, we were right based on what we knew? And now that things have changed, now that we know more, our new opinion is also right? What if we looked at differences of opinion as neither right or wrong, but merely two people in two different sets of circumstances? Could we understand each other better, listen with an open heart and mind?
Yes, I believe we could.
Our opinions are shaped by the world around us; however, as that world shifts, we tend to remain stuck in our original opinions. Why is that? Are we afraid that we lose a bit of our identity by changing our minds? Having an open mind does not mean you’ll fall for anything, rather that you’re willing to take the time and effort to listen first, decide second. It means the relationship is more important to you than proving you are right.
I tell my husband I don’t like political discussions. I get so frustrated when someone starts talking politics and suddenly tempers rise and nobody agrees on anything. More upsetting, is that nobody is listening to anybody. Each person is too focused on making the other person believe them that they stopped caring about what the other person believes or thinks. Each person is too intent on being heard and proving themselves right that they forgot the most important component of any conversation. Listening. To listen first, decide second. If you’re not willing to listen, then you’d best have a podium, a microphone, and a captive, quiet audience.
Listening sounds so easy, right? Have an open mind, they say. Listen before speaking, they say. How do you do this when the person talking is clearly wrong?! Surely you must stop them from continuing to speak due to how wrong they are!
Or maybe, you’ve got to take right and wrong out of the equation. Assume neither of you is right and neither of you is wrong. When you feel your temper starting to rise, eat a bite of humble pie, tell your ego to sit this one out, and remember that there’s always room for you to learn something new. Set aside your fear of being “wrong” long enough to hear someone out. Even if you decide to stick with your original beliefs after the conversation, at least you’ve learned something new about what someone else thinks and why. At least you listened.
When you feel yourself wanting to respond with a justification of your opinion, pause, and instead ask the other person a question. A simple “why?” can keep tempers calm and dialogue open and engaging. Wait to be asked for your opinion before jumping into your own beliefs. You never know. You might learn something new.
I’d love to hear from you. Please share your story in the comments of a time you choose humble pie over being right, or maybe a time you wish you had.
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Copyright © 2016 Katherine J. Wheeler. All rights reserved.