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Be Loving Today – You Can Be Right Tomorrow

Sidewalk art: "Love"PHIL: Maude posted a meme on Facebook: “Be loving today – you can be right tomorrow” that generated an unusually enthusiastic response. Why were people so taken with this attitude?

Let’s first consider why we like to be right. We each have our own understanding of how the world is. It’s a model of the world, as it were, and it helps us feel secure. It is our guide for how to live and what to expect, but when something in the world does not match this model, it is upsetting. It might be something small, like expecting that there will be somewhere to park or that the store has toilet paper in stock, or it might be huge, like expecting that a bank will return the money that you have deposited, believing that your partner is faithful, or trusting that you will not be robbed.

Wanting to be right is about trying to make the world conform to your model of it. Sometimes you can control it – the knife goes to the right of the plate – but more often, you can’t – the flight leaves at 11. The less secure you are, the more you insist on the rightness of your view in the face of contrary evidence, as did the church when told that the earth revolves around the sun, or voters who do not believe who won the election. The more secure you are, the more you feel firmly rooted in your sense of self, and the easier it is to accept upsets to your view of the world. That is not to say that a bank run, infidelity or robbery aren’t traumatic events; of course they are. The question is how easily you can adjust to the new reality. Whether it’s the plane leaving or your savings vanishing, holding onto how things should have been can only make you feel worse.

The Facebook meme says that instead of attempting to control events, it is better to be loving today. The alternatives to that are to be hateful or scared, and what kind of fun is that? (Of course there is a whole discussion about why you might choose that because of familiarity that I talked about a couple of weeks ago.) To be loving in this way requires the security mentioned earlier that comes from knowing yourself, and the more you do that, the more you can hold fast to what is important and let go of what isn’t. This is very different from insisting on being right; the latter comes from our head, and knowing yourself comes from the heart. The more you can sit in this position, the less the circumstances of life will upset you, and the more you can give thanks for the very existence of the world and all the people in it.

MAUDE: One of the areas that causes clashes for people in all kinds of relationships, and one that is at the root of many arguments, is the insistence on being right: that what you think is right, that what you want to do, and how you want to do it is the right way. This is often an unconscious behavior, yet one that characterizes many relationship communications.

Growing up in the modern competitive world can lead to the need and desire to be right, to have a sense of winning. It often represents to people that they are being heard if they get agreement, and conversely they feel unheard when they don’t. This can often lead to very volatile exchanges.

To alter this kind of dynamic and have a more peaceful energetic in your relationships takes a shift in perspective. When communicating, if you act from the assumption that you are on the same side and both want the best for each other, the tensions arising from the “my way or the highway” attitude can dissolve rapidly.

Be loving today – you can be right tomorrow.

In our blogs and books we have shared a process we practice through which you create mutual solutions. This develops both from an attitude of being on the same side and from seeking solutions and decisions that fulfill both parties. During this process you combine active listening with looking for the underlying deeper wants and needs behind asks, and the new possibilities that arise from those understandings. You come to realize much more about why you want what you want as you examine it together.

Here’s an example of how looking at underlying causes and sharing that information can turn the whole situation around. Recently I was having a discussion with a very frustrated young teenager. She was quite upset with her mom who she felt would not listen to her about what she wanted. Every time she expressed what she wanted, her mother would cut her off and tell her that was not possible, giving a reason that overrode the girl’s desires. I listened to her telling her story and then I asked her why she wanted what she was requesting. She explained that the situation she wanted to change was not as she had expected it to be, and she was quite disappointed. After leading her to examine what she had expected, I could see that she had never really thought about that before, partially because the exchange with mom had never involved looking at why she wanted it.

By getting to the root of the situation, she was then able to go to her mother, explain her feelings and the why, which got a very different reaction and they were able to work out a solution that they both felt good about. I also coached her to find a time when mom could really listen to her and wasn’t busy, and then ask not to be interrupted while she was explaining. I also cautioned her that she should then also listen without interruption to what the response was. They were able to find a solution that worked for both of them because they took the time to understand what the feelings behind the desires were.

This process works best when both parties participate and want to find mutuality. But what happens when only one of you really wants to find these kinds of outcomes? It is still possible to move toward this experience. It requires mindfulness, a basic decision and an awareness that you are not looking for acknowledgment by being right. You can bring to the situation the same willingness to listen and share with openness and thoughtful questions about what underlies conflicting desires or argumentative pushing of one viewpoint. Develop the attitude of mutuality within yourself and practice active listening – it’s catching!

Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Sidewalk art

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfThis week, we said be loving today – you can be right tomorrow. These articles look at some of the many facets of this statement.

Why Is It So Important to Be Right? “One of the most prevalent—and damaging—themes in our culture is the need to be right. It's one of those essential memes that we take for granted. It is so deeply embedded in our belief system and in the collective psyche that we never even pause to consider it. It would really serve us to inquire why it is so compelling. Before we begin to look at that, let's just reflect on how it impacts our lives.”

How To Let Go Of Your Need To Be Right All The Time  “The need to be right can be harmful to personal and professional relationships, but how? People who feel like they are always right tend to not be good listeners.
They don’t need to hear anything about what anyone else has to say about the matter because they already know what the answer is – whatever they know it to be. That’s harmful because it may prevent you from seeing and fixing small problems before they become major, and major problems before they become catastrophic.”

Why do we need to be right? “One of the most prevalent phenomena in our collective psyche is the need to be right. Pundits debate their views of climate change and political conflicts on television, we have arguments with friends as to who said what, and we often triumphantly proclaim: 'I told you so!'”

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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