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I’d Agree With You, But Then We’d Both Be Wrong

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    Being wrong is usually not good for your career. But being right, or at least acting like you are, can also be a liability. Learn why…

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    I’d Agree With You, But Then We’d Both Be Wrong

    Everyone likes to be right.

    And knowing you as I do, you probably are legitimately “right” much of the time.

    But there’s a paradox: If we enter a difficult conversation focused on our own rightness, we increase the likelihood that we are going to get it wrong.

    Why?

    For one, we are over-confident in our ability to determine what is correct. I do simple visual puzzles in my trainings in which all the data is directly in front of participants’ noses. Even when I urge them to answer only when they are certain they are correct, 50% of participants get the puzzle wrong.

    And this is child’s play compared to even simple disagreements at work, which are not only much more complex, but often don’t have an objectively “right” answer.

    Second, when we’ve already made up our minds, we aren’t open to changing them. Our counterparts almost always know things that we don’t, things that could help us make better decisions. Focusing on being right seals us off from what they know.

    Finally, when we are overly concerned with being right, it’s abrasive, not the best way to be when we’re trying to influence others. If we don’t actively solicit our counterpart’s concerns, we risk alienating them and potentially damaging our relationship.

    So the next time you catch yourself entering a conversation thinking you are right, instead strive to:

    1. Be humble and present your perspective as a theory to be tested.
    2. Listen in a way that demonstrates genuine interest in their concerns.
    3. Perhaps most importantly, coach yourself to be curious and open-minded: One of the most persuasive things we can do is to be open to persuasion ourselves.

    There’s nothing wrong with being right.

    But if we can manage to hold our opinions a bit more lightly, we’ll be even more successful.

24 responses to I’d Agree With You, But Then We’d Both Be Wrong

  1. Martha Miser says:

    Hi Richard – great topic. And I love the moment of panic!

    Do you know the book, “How We Know What Isn’t So?” A great resource on this topic.

    My husband (a coach as well) always talks about shifting from right-wrong to what’s working-not working. I’ve found that useful as well.

    Martha

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Thanks for this, Martha. I’ll check out that book. I’m not familiar with it.

      And your husband’s shift (from right-wrong to working-not working) sounds like a helpful move.

      The great book Difficult Conversations talks about a slightly different, but also useful shift: from right-wrong to multiple perspectives. This refers to understanding that we usually don’t have all the information, and appreciating that our counterpart’s perspective is as legitimate (and possibly just as accurate) as our own. We see things differently, but we in fact might BOTH be right!

  2. Jason DelPorto says:

    Really liked this installment Richard. Do you have a recommendation when there is no room for compromise, the idea is held lightly, and the other party still will not follow? A challenge I experience regularly.

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      That sounds tough, Jason. No easy answers, but a couple of thoughts:

      a. Make sure you are really listening to your counterparts, without agenda. Pay close attention to what they are saying directly, as well as to any latent meaning they may be communicating. Then acknowledge them by summarizing back. And do this until they report that they feel heard, and that they have nothing else to add. THEN, and only then, explain your take on the situation. You might even preface that by asking, after a pause, whether they would be willing to listen to you. You still may disagree in the end, but hopefully you’ll understand each other better.

      b. Figure out what your alternatives are and strengthen them if possible. More on alternatives in this earlier post: Negotiators Know Your Alternatives

      Good luck. Perhaps others have helpful ideas as well. Send em on!

  3. KarenZ says:

    Hi Richard!
    Love the panicky image – and, especially, its reprise after the colorful pattern!
    Now, what about my husband’s complaint that I think I’m “always right”??? In this case, perhaps I should agree with him…
    Thanks for excellent advice,
    Karen

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Agree that you are always right, or agree that you think you are always right. There’s an important difference. But agree away, Karen! Let me know how it goes… ;o)

  4. Marty Cohen says:

    Richard,

    As always good advice. It’s common sense but not always thought of going in to a discussion. I will try it with your mother.

  5. Carol says:

    Helpful video bro. And I’m not just saying that because you’re my brother! I will remember those points going forward in difficult conversations- be humble….listen actively…and get curious. Thanks for being great- I know I’m right about that.

  6. Peter Hiddema says:

    Hey Richard, Great video once again. You’ve outlined the dilemma and the advice clearly, and I LOVED the “Ahhhhh!” moment. The visual illusion combined with a replay of the “Ahhhhh!” moment at the end was the perfect way to finish the video. Bravo.
    Peter.

  7. Stephen Linsky says:

    Since each new video seems to surpass the last, I’m half expecting a 3D sequel, although the reprise has a bit of a 3D effect. (I reviewed that very image with a middle school math class recently).

    Very interesting area to which Martha’s comment was quite pertinent. Shifting the focus to whether something is working helps transition subjective perceptions, such as those relative to right/wrong, closer to more objective interests.

    Thanks, again. A joy as always!

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