I think most people enjoy being right. I know I do. But sometimes being right isn’t the most important thing. I know some of you may think that sounds like sacrilege! But it is true. Sometimes the most important thing to be is kind.
That is an easy concept to forget. When we are in the heat of a moment it can seem that the most important thing is to have our point heard, to have it be understood and to be told we are right. We may work hard to drive that home. The only problem is that sometimes those moments are with people who have great meaning to us. And the thing they need the most is to be treated gently.
I imagine we’ve all been there. We make a mistake. It may be a big one. We immediately realize what we did wrong. We not only have to deal with the aftermath of our choice, but we also start feeling bad about having made it. I should have known better. I should have thought it through more. All of the messages that we tell ourselves about what we did wrong and how we did it wrong.
And then comes the next part. We have to tell someone about it. It might be a parent or a partner. It might be our boss or best friend. It might even be our therapist. And one of our biggest fears is that they are going to tells us about how they were right. Even if they didn’t tell us before hand, they are going to point out how we should have never made the mistake. All of the places where we could have done it differently. And what we really want is compassion…comfort…care…kindness.
The ironic part is that when we are the ones trying to be right, it often isn’t driven by a need to be superior or condescending. It can be driven by the same things the other person is looking for. Because we care about the other person we want them to understand, to learn, to avoid the mistake in the future. In the moment it seems like if they just understand, if they just acknowledge that we are right then we will have inoculated them from making the same mistake in the future.
Unfortunately that is a flawed strategy for a lot of reasons. In those moments after making a mistake we are often doing a good job of beating ourselves up. Instead of being instructional, words of “wisdom” feel more like words of shaming. And shame is never a good motivator for change.
When we really care about someone we want to connect more deeply, not push them away. It is that connection that makes them want to trust us and out opinions. But the act of being right over being kind in that difficult moment doesn’t create connection. It does the opposite. And that just lessons our ability to be supportive and give advice and to teach.
And above all else, if we want to protect and support someone we love, what better time to do it than when they need it most? So in that moment when they did something wrong, don’t use it to be right. Use it it to be kind, caring and compassionate. Connect with them. Support them. Show them they can count on you. There will be plenty of time to be right later.