My dad never had a birds and the bees talk with me. I was kind of worried the night before my marriage when he said he wanted to talk to me about something. I thought, “Really, Dad? We’re going to do this now?” But he didn’t want to talk about pollination of any sort. He wanted to talk to me about being right. He said, “Jeff, I’ve been married for 32 years, and I’ve never won a fight, but I’m happy. You can be right, or you can be happy. It’s your choice.” I think he told me that, because up until that point, I always had to be right. It drove my parents crazy. Not only did I have to be right, but I also had to have the last word. He was worried I was going to push Sarah too far with my obstinate behavior. It didn’t take me long to realize that he was right, and I needed to stop pushing to be.
I cannot change whether I was right yesterday or not; I can only affect whether I will be right tomorrow. I want to be right tomorrow. I am much more welcoming of constructive criticism than I used to be, because I want to be better the next time I have to make a decision. I used to take it as a personal attack every time. Now I can recognize when it is actually constructive criticism. I can also recognize when you’re just insulting me and calling it constructive criticism. People that are fairly obvious, and although I will rarely tell you that I know what you’re doing, I know. But still, after I’m through being really, really annoyed with you, I will try to find construction in your insults.
Having to be right caused me to talk over you. Wanting to be right tomorrow forces me to listen more.
Having to be right made me judgmental towards opposing views. Wanting to be right tomorrow makes me more critical of myself (in the healthy sort of way).
Having to be right led me to always having the last word. Wanting to be right gives me a chance to give you the last word, right after I say thank you.
Having to be right informs the person you’re talking to that you feel superior to them. Wanting to be right lets them know that you respect them intellectually, and they may just be smarter than you.