How Not to Solve a Problem: Be Right

delicateflower1You’ve got a delicate situation on your hands, a difficult problem. You need to convince him of the obvious error of his ways so the deal can get done. You know you’re right, but you can’t seem to get her to listen to you. You can’t stand how he doesn’t give you credit for your ideas, even as he steals them. You wish she d would just admit she made a mistake and apologize so you can all move on.

You can be right, or you can solve the problem.
But you can’t do both.

When we get stuck on making the other person see things our way, we can lose sight of the object of the exercise. Do we really want to resolve something in a way that works for each of us – or do we really want an admission of defeat, a hard-won “you’re right! (and I’m wrong)”? All too often we think and say we want the first, but we behave as if we really require the second.

Ever find yourself asking, completely perplexed, “Why does he DO that?” or “How can she believe that?” Next time, check if you’re really asking a question or simply dressing up an accusation in question form. Are you really saying “I cannot believe he doesn’t agree with me!” or “obviously she’s wrong!” or “something is the matter with him!”

If, instead, you not only accept, but actually allow yourself to see things as if you were that person, you change the whole terrain. What if you really try to listen for the answer to the question? What if you really don’t understand his point of view, but are willing to try hard to do so? You move away from selling your point of view and instead focus on fitting together the puzzle to let the other person be right.

You don’t have to lose your perspective, not at all. You just have to give up being right. Let him be right. You’re trying to solve the delicate problem: how to make things work for both of you. If you need to let him save face in order for that to happen, is that really too high a price? Is your own sense of of self so fragile you must get his validation, or can you afford to let this one go?

Give it up; let him be right. Do that, and you’ve got a fighting chance at meeting both your needs – and walking away on the same side.

If you’re willing to be wrong, that is. But solve the problem.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

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