Right Fighting: Is It Worth It?

Posted March 5, 2013 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

In January, Career Girl’s resident life coach, Rebecca Niziol asked us all to face a big question: Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? The truth is, sometimes you can’t be both.

I thought back to Rebecca’s article when I was reading another article from Harvard Business Review writer Judith Glaser, “Your Brain is Hooked on Being Right.” In fact, it’s not so easy to choose being right or happy (though if you want some tactics on how to control those choices, Rebecca’s article is amazing). Judith Glaser tells us that our brain’s chemistry actually sabotages that choice with hormones and surges that make it nearly impossible to lay down and be alright with being wrong.

In situations of high stress, fear or distrust, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol floods the brain. Executive functions that help us with advanced thought processes like strategy, trust building, and compassion shut down. And the amygdala, our instinctive brain, takes over. The body makes a chemical choice about how best to protect itself — in this case from the shame and loss of power associated with being wrong — and as a result is unable to regulate its emotions or handle the gaps between expectations and reality. So we default to one of four responses: fight (keep arguing the point), flight (revert to, and hide behind, group consensus), freeze (disengage from the argument by shutting up) or appease (make nice with your adversary by simply agreeing with him).

But how do you control yourself when those responses seem to be so chemically driven? Judith gives great pieces of advice in her article like this one:

Plan who speaks. In situations when you know one person is likely to dominate a group, create an opportunity for everyone to speak. Ask all parties to identify who in the room has important information, perspectives, or ideas to share. List them and the areas they should speak about on a flip chart and use that as your agenda, opening the floor to different speakers, asking open-ended questions and taking notes.

Click here to read the rest of Judith Glaser’s article and learn how you can learn to be wrong (or something like that).

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."