Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Right in What Way?

The Tyranny of Being Right

It’s such an easy thing to fall into: the desire, the need, to be right. It creates huge divides between us, drives us to say and do things that cause others to either disengage or retaliate. Later, we may console ourselves with the satisfaction of winning but it’s pretty much a cold dinner left on a table that’s been deserted by friends. And if the friends are important and powerful enough, it can even turn out to be more like a last supper. The alternative is being wrong, of course, and that’s where I believe the problem lies. After all, if I am wrong, it can become a chink in the armor of my self-confidence and self-trust, and in the self-perceived, self-protected perfection of my reputation. One chink leads to another, you know, so that the possibility is all the armor might fall away and I’ll have to just stand there, both vulnerable and alone.
The way I look at it the "rightness" depends on the question.  Normally as we live the decisions we make don't really address only 1 question.  There is the question of what will be the least disruptive action.  There is the question of if it is fair to change the rules for an employee in mid stream.  There is the question of what should you spend your time on.  There is the question of what you should do to help yourself.  Etc.  You can be "right" on 1 question and that same action can be "wrong" or problematic or dangerous for another question.

Often standing for principle may be taken as doing the "right" thing.  Lets even say it is right when asking what is in the interests of the company.  But it is certainly common that doing so is the wrong thing for your career (or any of a number of other way of considering what to do).

I do definitely have the desire to be right. But I understand it isn't as simple as being right from one point of view. It is finding the right answer that optimizes to overall success on many different fronts. Sometimes the right answer is to accept that the wrong decision will be made in the meeting today, because the things necessary to get the right decision are not worth the cost.

Related: Long Term Thinking with Respect for People - We are Being Ruined by the Best Efforts of People Who are Doing the Wrong Thing

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