My dad used to always say “I am not always right, but I am never wrong”. I wish he was still alive today to have a discussion about this with him.
I have thought about this expression a lot over the years. I used it when I was younger and thought I knew everything, and I use it now as a way to start conversation.
What makes us so certain we are right? Why is it so important for us to cling to our beliefs with absolute certainty of the rightness of what we think? Why do we think that we are defined by our beliefs to the extent that we refuse to talk to people who disagree with us, we end friendships, and make it the focus of our fights and retelling of our war stories?
What if we are wrong? About everything? What if we spent the day today embracing the other side? Exploring all of our thoughts as if we are wrong about them?
What if your teenager knows more than you do? What if it’s ok if your husband leaves the toilet seat up? What if a woman’s value is not tied to her thigh gap? What if God exists? Doesn’t exist?
By exploring these other sides what happened to you? Did you die? Did some weird rash extend all over your body? Probably not.
We are so completely capable of considering another perspective, of Thinking Opposite, without our world falling apart. We just don’t do it enough.
What happens when we suspend our belief and consider for a moment that the other person may actually be right?
As you may or may not know, I own a house painting company as well as Domino Thinking. It is unusual for me to be in the paint store as these days I spend most of my time meeting with clients, but the other day it made sense for me to go in and order paint for this particular project.
I was undecided about the product I should use for an odd situation and was talking with the staff. Another painter, who heard only part of the conversation, interjected his opinion without actually knowing what my situation was. He also had no idea who I was and I think he just assumed I was simply a home owner. I found I was so irritated with his “I know and you don’t attitude” that I totally blew him off. He wasn’t talking to me like I was an equal and I was just not interested in being talked down to. But the reality is that he could possibly have given me some insight. I didn’t like his assumption that I was wrong and I wasn’t willing to give it to him that he may be right. He may also have been wrong, but I will never know.
Why did I do that? I didn’t actually mind if I was wrong, I knew I was in uncharted territory. I was ok with him being right and knowing more. What I wasn’t ok with was how I FELT treated… He acted, at least it was my perception of his approach, like I was an idiot. That having painted for 23 years and owned my company for 18 counted for nothing. And in turn I treated him the same way. It wasn’t the content it was the context.
Perhaps that is what it is more about? Not about being right or wrong, but how we make each other feel.
How we discount each other’s knowledge and experience making it really hard to have a conversation.
I try to be aware of these things and stay open, but every once in a while, (probably less so now that I am older and am painfully aware of how little I actually know!) my ego gets involved and I lose out on an opportunity to have a conversation, one where I may be wrong and can learn something new or that may confirm my position and make me more confident going forward.
I ask that you take time today to think about how you respond when your “rightness” comes into question. It’s hard especially with the algorithms sending us ads and information to support our position, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it for healthy relationships and mandatory for our own growth.
My dad was not always right… full stop!