Collaborating – Do you want to be happy or be right?


Have you ever found yourself in the place where you are debating one side of an issue and gaining no ground whatsoever? Have you ever asked yourself what matters more, being happy or being right?

In my change efforts, I frequently look for and, more importantly, listen for these two points. The next time you find yourself in a debate or a slight disagreement, try to determine if the other person is really worried about being right (e.g. I know the best way to do this and there is only one way, my way) or if they are willing to be happy and accept an answer that might be somewhat different than their current view. Its not always easy to hear the differences. A lot of time it comes down to emotions. If you can gain a perspective on their emotions, you will do yourself a favor. Here are a couple of my favorite questions to assess the situation:

  • What is the emotional state of the person debating me? Are they frustrated and driving to a point to prove themselves correct?
  • Ask “So what?” in a very genuinely curious fashion. Without being curious, you will sound (and be) arrogant. Asking this question is the best way to cut through the “noise” and distill the real underlying issues. HINT – you many need to ask the “so what” question multiple times until you get to the real root cause. Being genuine is the key here. NOTE – This cannot be taught. You are either genuine or not, and people can figure that out.
  • Is this person interested in my perspective? When I share my view is the person really listening to me? Or, are they just waiting until I pause so they can insert additional supporting reasons for why they are right? Ever heard of “active listening”? Do you use it? Do they?
  • Last, ask them the question of this entry, “do you want to be happy or be right?”. Be prepared for the “what do you mean, response?”. It may stop someone in their tracks, the first time. Then everytime thereafter, they will ask themselves the question and possibly preempt the debate in the first place.

In closing, being right usually feels really good to the individual “being right”. It helps the self-confidence. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, its nice to be right, isn’t it? It definitely beats being wrong! Happy, on the other hand, creates room in a team for others to be right, and it allows you to provide input without focusing on being right.

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