Why Being Right is Overrated

Armed with enough humility, leaders can learn from everyone – Bill Hybels

Have you ever found yourself embroiled in debate with supreme confidence in your position?  You know, the kind of back and forth during which heels are dug in deeper and stronger with each passing barb.Whether the issue is light-hearted (like the better band: Led Zeppelin or The Who) or more solemn, there’s an interest in being right.

If you’re anything like me, I’ve often replayed conversations like this hours, days, maybe even weeks later.  And you know what – no matter how strongly I’ve felt, it’s normal for me to better understand the other person upon further reflection.  Sometimes, my perspective has even changed.

The older I get, the less invested I am in proving I’m right.  It’s not that I lack conviction (I don’t) or am wishy-washy (I’m not), but I’ve learned that the quest to be right is fairly petty.

Honestly, it’s a futile pursuit.

I wish I could go back and explain this to my college self.  I really liked being right, and often believed that even when I wasn’t all that informed, given the right tone and cadence, I could persuade others to see things my way.

Bravado, anyone?

But, I’ve learned how right I am really doesn’t matter.  What matters is how I treat others.  Because people don’t care if you’re right all the time; they care if you care.

More and more, I’m listening, really listening – especially to people who don’t look like me, see the world differently than I do, and may be hard to like.

I’m learning to appreciate how much I can learn from others with whom I don’t always agree.

Our worldview is informed, in large part, through life experience.  Humans lead vastly different lives with thoroughly different experiences.  This represents but one reason why traveling abroad is so healthy.  Unfamiliar cultures can help us see the world in new ways.  Travel can allow for deeper thinking and can reshape our mindset as a result.  Interestingly, it can also assist the creative process.

Between race relations, gay marriage, abortion rights, and other social affairs – these are seminal days.  We see the implications of such polarizing issues regularly unfolding in the media.  Needless to say, there are plenty of opportunities for disagreement.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it – Aristotle

And yet, agreement isn’t a prerequisite for learning.  I don’t have to endorse someone else’s attitude on every cause to learn from them.  Or accept them.  Or befriend them.  I’m not going to write someone off simply because they embrace a different ideal.  We might not agree with another’s perspective, but why should that stop us from understanding how they’ve arrived there?  Or from listening to what they have to say?

If I’m only interested in homogenous ideas, I’m missing an incredible opportunity for personal betterment.  I would be nothing more than a status quo preserver of my own creation.  Not exactly growth-minded.

There is false comfort in agreement – Sallie Krawcheck

My Uncle Dave is a wise man.  He is a pastor, author, leader, and independent thinker.  He firmly believes that unanimity isn’t necessary for unity.  By encouraging robust debate, teams with common objectives can thrive; even among dissent.  But, some teams won’t move forward until an agreeable consensus is reached.  Unfortunately, that’s a path to mediocrity.  And, as my Uncle Dave also says, you don’t have to be disagreeable to disagree.

If there is one thing I hope to successfully communicate, it’s this: never renounce a conviction rooted in truth; but always listen to the other side.  Because whether you agree with someone or not, life is about relationships; and, how we treat one another is as important an issue as there is.

So, aspire to humility, kindness, and love.  In the long run, they’re far more important characteristics than flawlessness.

As for being right – save it for Jeopardy.

Follow Tim on Twitter @Tim_G_Holland

Recommended Reading:

Scary Close by Donald Miller – A terrific book on the importance of how we treat one another

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