Being right can be a big problem for people in charge—and indeed for people whose quality of service relies on their capacity to give good advice: accountants, financial advisors, lawyers, doctors, business consultants and coaches, and many other professions.
Obviously, being wrong is unacceptable in these people. I cannot have my financial advisor suggesting inappropriate investments through which I might lose money, or a doctor prescribing inappropriate medicine because he/she was wrong in their diagnosis.
So, what’s the problem? The problem is that many people confuse being right with their need to be right, their attachment to being right. I once knew a business owner who showed every sign of being prepared to sacrifice his business rather than address the fact that he might be wrong about a single (admittedly important) part of its business model.
Because he traded on the quality of the business advice he give, he couldn’t bring himself to accept that it might be wrong. I guess he had a fear of the (imagined) consequences of giving incorrect advice.
Politicians give us many good examples of people who show a considerable attachment to being right. The situation is not helped by the media and the politicians’ opponents who gleefully land on any instance of a politician changing their mind. Whilst this is obviously a game for the most part, it does reveal an unhealthy reversion to a dependent position of wanting mummy or daddy to know best.
However, needing to be right about one’s business model isn’t really about being right about one’s business model. Of course that is a concern, but it is not the concern. Rather, the business model is an instance of a general category of things—called “life”, or “the world”—about which the person needs to be right.
Needing to be right about how the world is, being comfortable in the knowledge that one can predict what will happen to one, is a result of a fear that, actually, the world is unpredictable—and that’s frightening.
I might not be able to cope; I might lose control; vaguer senses of threat abound, possibly even existential ones. Needing to be right is therefore a type of needing to control.
Needing to be right is a defence mechanism. It is as if the individual has been hurt in the past and they didn’t like it, so they are determined that it doesn’t happen again. One way of doing that is to control what happens to us. Of course, it doesn’t work.
The pain of being forced from a position of righteousness is usually worse than the pain of the unwanted experience in the first place. If the business owner just got on with his plan and made suitable adjustments, he would just have to deal with any snide remarks from his colleagues—or, rather, he would have to deal with the self-attack that would have resulted. Better that, though—and far easier, too—than having to deal with a collapsed business, the consequences on the jobs of his staff and the effects on their clients.
by Jeremy Marchant . © 2014 Jeremy Marchant Limited . uploaded 16 july 2014 . image: Free images