Are you addicted to being right? Do you sometimes push your opinion through even though deep down inside you have the inkling that the other person may have a valid point? Do you feel better when you convinced someone of your opinion?
We all do it. We all LOVE to be right. It gives us a confidence boost. It gives us an internal satisfaction. And it gives us a dopamine hit. In the world of “Conversational Intelligence,” a methodology to restore trust and collaboration in organizations, we talk about this habit as the addiction to being right. Yes, wanting to be right (all the time) can be an addiction that is not only harmful to our relationship with others but also harmful to the well-being of others.
Never before did I look at conversations and communication from the perspective that it has an impact on health and well-being of the people around me. But here is the concept. When we can convince someone of our opinion, or we can prove that we are right, our body releases dopamine in the brain. And that dopamine hit is similar to the one when we take recreational drugs. It feels good, we feel good. Now there is nothing wrong with it except when we have to push someone else down and make them wrong so that we can get our high.
Let’s look at an example. A few months ago I shadow-coached a team meeting and observed a leader and his team during one of their monthly department meetings. The leader made a proposal for a change and asked for the team member’s input. Initially, the participation was nonexistent; nobody wanted to share their input. Then one female physician had the courage to speak up. Halfway into her argument, the physician leader interrupted her. He gave her and the team a 2-minute explanation why her idea wouldn’t work. She didn’t give in right away but addressed the leader’s argument in a clever way. I noticed a couple of her colleagues slightly nodding their head while she spoke. When she was finished, the leader concluded with additional arguments that they tried a similar approach before and they didn’t get the desired result. Needless to say, after that nobody raised their hand anymore and the discussion was completed. Rather than coming up with a collaborative decision about this proposed change, the meeting went nowhere and the team looked deflated.
Many times, we push our opinions and righteousness through by making someone else wrong. When we are convinced about something and feel very emotional about it, it feels good to share. But when it comes from righteousness the result is often that rather than building them up and getting them engaged, which is something that we as leaders are responsible for, we shoot them down.
Being right and making others wrong does not have the same impact and feeling in other people. Instead, their bodies are releasing cortisol, a stress hormone, that will get their body in a fight, flight, freeze or appease mode. In the example I mentioned, the team chose the appease mode through non-participation.
Now I don’t say here that you want someone else to be always right, and you give in to make others feel good. As it is with everything in life, there has to be a balance. After all, effective leadership is a commitment to results and relationships, never compromising one for the other.
I want this article to be an awareness for you to notice how often do you push your opinion through? How addicted are you to the feeling that you always have to have the right answer? How often do you interrupt others and shoot down their ideas or opinions?
Communication and partnership are a give and take. If you ask someone for their opinion or input, find a point that you can acknowledge and build up the conversation from there. After all, when you ask for input or ideas, the conversation should be a collaboration where several ideas come together to form a solution that hasn’t been created before.
Keep in mind; you cannot build someone else up by always pushing them down. You cannot have confident team members if you cut them off or criticize their contribution. There has to be a balance so that at the end everybody is moving up and accomplishing what they came out to do.
How do you remind yourself to keep your addiction in check?