Being Right or Being in Relationship:

Which Do You Choose?

by Stephen Reynolds

Throughout our lives, each of us has many opportunities to choose between Being Right and Being in Relationship with another human being.  The choices we make at these intersections go a long way toward determining what type of life we have.

While many people profess to want to have a better relationship with someone they consider special, their behaviors often contradict this declared intention.  The true measure of a person’s beliefs are what they do, not what they say.  If you want to know how much one person loves another, observe the choices they make around each other.

When one person does not get what they want from another, do they focus on trying to understand why their request does not work for the other person, or do they repeatedly declare reasons why the other person “should” comply with their request?

When one person gives in to another in a conflict, does he or she do this freely and generously, making the concession a true gift, or do they hold their concession as a “deposit” toward some future event when they will be “entitled” to get their way?

When one person is criticized by another, are they more likely to say, “You seem upset; what would you like me to do differently?”, or are they more likely to reply, “You’re not being fair!”?

When one person is upset at something another person did, do they focus on non-judgmentally expressing their feelings, or do they spend their time and energy pointing out why the other person was “wrong” to do what they did?

When one person takes exception to the tone or manner in which another is speaking to them, do they disclose how vulnerable they feel, or do they accuse the other of being condescending?

A person who is more interested in being right will focus on what they are not getting from another person, and spend their time and energies attempting to communicate their unmet needs.  A person whose greater interest is being in relationship will focus more on understanding what the other person’s need are, and in learning more about how they can assist the other person in meeting those needs.

A key indicator of the state of a relationship can be seen when one person comes home upset about what happened during their day.  A person whose partner is primarily interested in relationship will be asked to share more of their feelings about the day.  A person whose partner is primarily interested in being right will be questioned more about why they took the actions they did during the day.

It is not “wrong” to want to be right.  However, being right has its price.  It is a barrier to intimacy and limits the depth of our relationships.  And if we compound our need to be right with blaming the other party for the lack of depth in our relationship, we can almost guarantee the relationship will fail.

Individuals who exhibit a strong need to be right and/or to have things their way usually have unresolved internal issues that they project onto others.  If these individuals can begin to catch themselves in their patterns, and declare to themselves and others their ownership of the responsibility for their actions --- they will be taking a critical first step in breaking their historic pattern, and moving toward achieving deeper, more meaningful relationships.  If these individuals are unable to accept the responsibility for their behavior and its consequences, they will likely continue to doom themselves to a string of less-than-satisfactory relationships.

To test your own “Need to Be Right” quotient, complete this exercise.  While you will likely find that both answers to some questions will apply to you, pick the answer that is most often true for you.

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