Why Being So Right Can Be So Wrong

Colleagues in animated business discussion

There’s an obsession in society and ourselves with rightness. Rightness in our work, in our relationships, with our spouses, our kids, our parents, our friends. There’s something wonderfully satisfying about being right—justification of your hard work, intellect and finely-honed skills. You’re amazing! An addiction to winning that triggers both mind and body. You’re riding high that your rightness is well deserved, and boy does it feel good.

You’re right. But at what cost? Let’s consider the downside of being the all-knowing.

Here’s three things you lose by always being right:

  1. Evolution. If you’re always right, how are you learning, growing, evolving? How are you bettering yourself if you’re not willing to be open to the diversity of opinions, suggestions, and thoughts of your team? There’s almost always more than one way to reach a destination.
  1. Collaboration. How many times have you been right at the expense of someone else being wrong? It doesn’t help the people around you if you are unknowingly or unwittingly eroding their trust and confidence. People probably won’t want to help you if you’re inadvertently making them feel "less than" all the time. Don’t forget you’re working together to reach a common goal.
  1. The Truth. 400 years ago, some fervently believed, in their own self-proclaimed rightness, that the earth was the immovable center of the universe, rather than the sun. They viciously persecuted any dissenters even when presented with scientific facts to the contrary (Galileo should ring a bell here). They would feel pretty stupid now, wouldn’t they? Remember to give yourself a periodic ego check. You probably don’t know it all.

I recently worked with a strong, effective leader who wasn’t always right. He’s a thoughtful listener, agile decision maker, and willing to put aside pride and change his mind. He’s a man willing to be wrong. This has helped make him a rising star with a loyal team and I would be thrilled to work with him again.

You don’t need to take my word for it, but reflect for a moment on what Peter T. McIntyre once said: “Confidence comes not from always being right but by not fearing to be wrong.”