Do You Want to Be Right in Your Relationships at Work or Do You Want to have the Right Kind of Relationships?
Ever have a season of struggle in your relationships at work? At home? In a volunteer group?
Well, I have. I remember very vividly embarking on a brand-new relationship with a leader at another organization years ago. I was so very hopeful that our team was going to help his team meet their organizational goals. So, I embarked on a consultative tour to visit his offices and learn about the business of the business.
After several visits and opportunities to interact, I sensed that something was not quite right between us. After a series of interactions and disagreements, our relationship became “frosty.” In other words, we were professional, yet cool with one another. For those of you that know me, warm is my preferred relationship temperature!
From my point of view, if I said, “It’s raining” he would say, “No it’s not, it’s snowing!“ At least that is what is seemed like to me. It seemed that no matter what I said, he was going to take the opposite position. As I reflect, I too, may have gotten caught up in the rhythm of continuous debate.
At the end of the day, I discovered that we were both striving to be right.
Relationships at work can get off track. It’s not a matter of if our relationships will experience a season of struggle, it’s a matter of when. And when they do, what can we do to recycle the struggle for the good of the relationship and the organization?
Typically, it is not a one-time incident that throws the relationship off. Rather it’s the day-to-day words and actions between two people that can chip away at a relationship over time. And nothing can chip away at a relationship more directly than one or both of you needing to be right when there is a disagreement.
The desire to be right is something that was taught to us at a very young age. When we get the answers right in school, we get better grades. If we do the “right” things and make the right moves in sports, we win! This is how we came to believe that being right was the goal.
But that which has made us successful in school, in sports and even work can be the very thing that destroys our relationships. Here’s why the need to be right can impact your relationships at work and at home:
We’re Not Listening
When our desire is to be right, we tend not to listen to the other person. We may be trying to control the conversation, talk over one another, etc., resulting in not fostering an environment for healthy dialogue with our team members. We may be interrupting one another or not listening generously because we are thinking about the next rebuttal that will align with our beliefs and ideologies that will make us, at least in our own minds, right.
We Learn Nothing New
When we’re so tied to our own views and opinions, we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to learn anything new. If we don’t think our team members have valid, interesting ideas and insights, we are missing the mark. Everyone has something of value to share on behalf of the team. It’s been my experience that there is nothing and no one that can teach us more – mostly about ourselves – than those that we work with day in and day out. The idea is to remain open to the lesson.
We Remain Stuck in the Past
When we’re not learning anything new, the only insights from which we must draw upon for making decisions is the past: our past experiences, our past failures, our past relationships. And when we’re focused on the past, we unintentionally perpetuate those same experiences, bringing them into the present and allowing them to impact the future. We project, so to speak, those experiences onto our team members who may be wondering, “Where is all of this is coming from?” This is how we repeat the same relationship mistakes over and over.
What’s the Definition of Right?
Every one of us has a lens through which we see and experience the world around us. Embedded in that lens are decades of thoughts, beliefs, judgements, experiences and opinions. No two people have the exact same lens because no two people have had the exact same life experiences that led them to the exact same conclusions. So, although our own opinions seem painfully, obviously accurate and correct to us, it’s unlikely that someone else will see things exactly the same way. We know this in theory and living this out can be a challenge. We like our story, or our way and we are sticking to it! Maybe there is no real definition of right; maybe we each just have an opinion.
There is No Hierarchy in a Healthy Relationship
If we behave as though our team member’s opinion isn’t valuable, it can create an unintentional hierarchy within the relationship where one person feels better than or smarter than the other. The best relationships are comprised of equals with mutual respect, which cannot occur when we’re not willing to listen to and consider one another’s opinions to be just as valid as our own. Leaders, you may be above someone on an organizational chart. However, it is seeing others with equal value that wins the day, every day!
It Limits Our Ability to Connect
Prioritizing the need to be right in an important conversation with individuals at work and even in our personal relationships, will limit our ability to connect with one another. When we must be right, then the other person is automatically wrong. And when we feel like we’re consistently being made to feel like we’re wrong, that’s not someone we’re anxious to spend time with or help be successful.
Ask Yourself: How would I evaluate the quality of my relationships? Do I have a consistent need to be right? Am I unwilling to listen to another person’s perspective? Do I have to get my own way? What happens when I don’t get my own way? Am I willing to disagree and commit…with goodwill?
Based on your answers to these questions, you and those you work with may benefit from your taking the lead to implement strategies that will reset your relationship. Healthy relationships are those where both people feel safe, valued, heard, important and equal.
Here are a few steps you can take to get your relationship back on track:
- Ask yourself: What is really going on with me and with us?
- Determine what you do value in the other person
- Find common ground
- Share your hopes for you and the other person
- Share your requests and be ready to make offers
- Be intentional about not wanting to be “right” and end up justifying why you did what you did
That relationship years ago that I described? I am happy to report that we were indeed able to find common ground, make requests and offers, and we ended up learning a lot about ourselves. Through staying at the table and with the willingness to ask, “What can I learn?” we were able to thank one another for being that “mirror” that all of us need to step into the better-version of ourselves.
Let us know if we can help you. Sometimes you need a trusted resource who is objective and can help coach you through seasons of struggle.
We have provided a relationship inventory for you to reflect on your relationships.
Take a first step toward stronger relationships in your circles of influence!
We hope this inventory helps you to be on your way to happier, healthier relationships, one conversation at a time!
All my best,
Fortis Leadership, CEO