The trap of wanting to be right

All of us have had difficult conversations in our life. 

A conversation turns bitter when we don’t allow the other person to express their views because it could hurt our beliefs. When this happens, the other person will simply unhook themselves from the conversation because they feel exhausted that we don’t get it.

The devil here is our compulsiveness to be right.

I’ve gotten into this trap many times, especially when discussing my beliefs. I used to feel uneasy when there was a contradictory opinion. When I thought about why I allow such conversations to get to me, I realized how I always resisted uncomfortable views. And this resistance, in turn, deeply stressed me out.

After a few episodes of being trapped in that bubble, I paused, stepped back and discovered two new perspectives.

The first one:

I remembered the story of a Zen master from a book I read. The lesson the master taught his disciple was “to empty ourselves of our preconceived beliefs to be open to a broader, more complex reality.” I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of ’emptying ourselves’ much. 

It seemed like detaching ourselves from all the experiences and impressions we’ve had, not having an opinion, and simply observing the new lessons without judgement. It certainly sounds ideal, but I’m not sure how it’s practically possible, given the highly distracted, competitive world we live in. I couldn’t resonate much with that idea. Maybe I have a long way to go to realize this truth. Perhaps that’s what it is.

The second one:

The other realization seemed a little straightforward to comprehend, though incorporating that would require greater self-awareness and the ability to let go.

It is to slow down and help the other person uncover their truth without becoming obsessed with destroying it even before they feel heard. It’s about being genuinely curious about a new insight even though we’re sure that it could ruin our inner peace. It’s about slowly unshackling the importance we give to our feelings or beliefs and trying to see the other person. And if their stance is still unclear, we can always question with curiosity. Once enough has been revealed about the other person’s truth, we can pursue the next steps based on the intention of the conversation.  

  • If the other person’s intention was to be heard, we could assure them that.
  • If it’s a discussion to make a decision, in that case, since we’ve exposed ourselves to a new insight by actively listening and questioning vague viewpoints, we’d be in a much better position to arrive at a helpful decision.
  • Suppose the intention is to evaluate whose belief is superior. In that case, it’s best to resort to the “to each their own” mindset while occasionally questioning our beliefs and becoming more self-aware.

The second approach is something I’m consciously trying to incorporate, though the road isn’t smooth and royal in any sense. Whenever I feel that it’s tedious, I remind myself of this quote from my favourite book.

“Most people can hardly imagine what it would be like to be at peace with inner disturbance. But if you do not learn to be comfortable with it, you will devote your life to avoiding it. If you feel insecure, it’s just a feeling, and you can handle a feeling. If you feel embarrassed, it’s just a feeling. It’s just a part of creation. If you feel jealousy and your heart burns, just look at it objectively, like you would a mild bruise. It’s a thing in the universe that is passing through your system. Laugh at it, have fun with it, but don’t be afraid of it. It cannot touch you unless you touch it.”

Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself.

Perhaps it’s true that most of the inner disturbances we experience are because of our increased inner sensitivity and resistance.

Maybe if we work on that, we can escape the trap of wanting to be right.

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