Do You Want Relationship or Do You Want to be Right?

January 22, 2017

Categories: Humility

In our lives, we have an almost insatiable need to be right. Think about the last argument you had with a spouse, friend, or co-worker. My guess is that it probably had something to do with a difference of opinion, and each of you thought you were right. The conversation became a contest to see who could do a better job convincing the other person that their perspective was correct.

How did that work out for you? My guess is that it didn’t work out too well.

In our research, we have consistently found that trying to convince our relationship partner that we are right usually has bad consequences and can leave the relationship damaged. On the other hand, engaging with humility usually leads to higher levels of commitment and relationship satisfaction.

Even if you are right and your goal is to convince the other person that your position is correct, engaging with arrogance and a defensive posture isn’t likely to be effective. This way of being actually causes the other person to become more entrenched in their position and less likely to see your point of view. When you engage with humility, you have a better chance of the other person actually listening to your opinion and considering change.

Finally, in all relationships, there are differences between the two people who are having a discussion with each other. The differences could be big, or they could be small, but the differences are there. It usually isn’t a good strategy to try to get the other person to mirror you and agree with everything you believe. Instead, you might have a better relationship if you accept the fact that your relationship partner is different from you, and that’s okay.

It can be helpful to ask yourself the following question: What is your ultimate goal in this interaction? Do you want relationship, or do you want to be right? You usually can’t have it both ways.

Discussion: When you are engaged in a discussion with someone, do you prioritize the relationship, or do you prioritize being right? What is one step you could take toward letting go of the need to be right, and instead putting the relationship first?


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  1. Rev. Katherine Mitchell March 14, 2018 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Hi Josh,

    I found your blog in doing some research for my sermon on Sunday and then got curious about your and watched your lecture on intellectual humility and religion. I am preaching on the Mark text where Jesus calls the disciples out for arguing and then gives them a lesson on humility. “Whoever wants to be the first of all must be the last of all and servant of all.” Your work is great and very worthwhile for a time such as this! I will definitely be siting your Sunday! Thank You!

  2. Joshua Hook March 14, 2018 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the encouragement Katherine!

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