When you need to be right! | on the edge

When you need, want or demand to be right you automatically make the other person wrong.

The thing is you will not always be right about everything. Each person has their own set of experiences that inform their beliefs and preferences. Your right comes from you context which is unlikely to be the same as anyone else’s.


The awareness of this perspective was created for me during my coaching training and something I share with my clients whenever they share their emotionally charged experience of being challenged in a conversation.

I recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with a prospective client which made me think about needing to be right. I expected objections to be raised based on previous conversations. I consciously showed up being aware of not needing to be right. In the conversation, I shared about our experience of dealing with similar organization and how they too had struggled to achieve the outcome they desired – outcomes I believed from our previous conversations this client was grappling with. I shared how we had helped other organizations succeed. The client’s objection: “I don’t believe you can make the difference you claim in our organization right now.” What a trigger to my wanting to be right! I instantly become aware of the threatening feelings coming up for me from the client’s response. it was tempting to let my ego get the better of my preference to build trust with this prospective client.

What if there is no right? What if nothing’s wrong? What if I stood back and reflected on what was driving my client’s objection.

Judith Glaser (2014:15) suggests we are addicted to being right. Emotionally charged reactions to feeling threatened, confronted, challenged shut down the possibility of calm, rational and even engaging responses. Trust in that situation is compromised and there is a low possibility of creating a mutually agreed outcome.

Status is a significant driver of behaviour, says David Rock (2009:198). Along with a threat to another’s status, their certainty, their self-determination, how they relate or what they perceive to be unfair creates a threat response and the potential for conflict. Being right does that!

Communication behaviour is a conscious choice, says Deon Basson, founder of Communication Intelligence (http://2interact.com/#home). You can choose to be competitive in your communication behaviour if you wish to demand your way. And, if this is your choice, then you also need to take 100% responsibility for the reaction you get, whether the consequences are unintended or not. You also choose to be avoiding in your communication behaviour. Avoiding behaviour may be experienced as disengaging or dishonesty and is met with scepticism or suspicion. Your communication behaviour choice may evoke a threat reaction which erodes trust, according to Glaser (2014), and may push people away, according to Rock (2009). Competing and avoiding communication behaviour is I-centric (Glaser, 2014) rather than we-centric. What if you choose to be more collaborative or accommodative in your communication behaviour?

What if I switched from needing to make my point and being right to what Glaser (2014) calls a sharing and discovery mode of conversation? What if I stopped guessing what was going on for the client? What if I stopped putting the solution in front of the problem? What if I turned up with genuine curiosity about the client’s world? What if I turned down the arrogant and turned up the humility? What if I showed up as not knowing, not a “know it all”? What if the biggest gain I got from the meeting was increased trust that pathed the way for exploration of mutual value?


Glaser, J.E. 2014. Conversational intelligence : how great leaders build trust and get extraordinary results. Brookline, MA: Bibliomotion.
Rock, D. 2009. Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. New York: Harper Collins.


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