We were born to “be right”

One of the most powerful drivers for human beings is being right. As we evolved up the food chain, it was very important to know if that rustling in the bushes was a rabbit (your dinner) or a tiger (you’re dinner). Our limbic system is geared to make snap judgments and then defend them without our conscious mind being involved. The world around many of us now is a place where we don’t have to worry about immediate survival, yet our brains are still looking for things to be right about. We take positions on politics, sports, fashion, proper highway speed, the ending of Lost, or myriad other subjects. Our brains almost always have an opinion, and that opinion is the right one.

Being right is a huge pull for us. A 2008 study by Chun Siong Soon (et. al.) showed that the brain often makes decisions several seconds before a subject realizes it. Almost everyone has had the experience of making a snap judgment and then only later finding reasons to defend it. 

A defining moment for me was shortly after I moved in with my girlfriend. I opened the dishwasher to see bowls upside down on the bottom, plates facing outward, etc. This was the wrong way to load a dishwasher! I had evidence (there’s a diagram in the manual!) and my position was inarguable. I politely let my partner know, “You can’t load the dishwasher this way.” She replied, “I’ve done dishes for 30 years and never had a problem before. You’re welcome to reload it if you want.” At that moment, I had a choice: I could either be right (and find a way to rationalize that this amazing woman was clearly flawed) or I could give up my opinion (and continue creating her as amazing and brilliant). Choosing the latter required me to honor our relationship and actively choose to be loving and to be partnership. Not needing to be right all the time is still an ongoing practice for me. While it’s difficult in some moments, practice makes it far easier. And my life is far better for it.