Whether the question is applied to recent discussions and debates about women’s challenges in the world of work, or perhaps the SANDBERG SPARK — OR perhaps gay marriage … gun control …abortion …some have asked me about  who’s right and who’s wrong …and, further,  what’s wrong with wanting to be right …it’s an important question to explore if you want your relationships to improve — personally and professionally.  And, perhaps equally important, dialogue about what’s going on in the world…..

    Most people experience a break down in successful communication on issues as complex as values about feminism, gun control, gay marriage, abortion…. or even something totally simple like a Friday night conversation about what MOVIE to see …because one or more of the people in the interaction holds on — tightly — to the belief of I’m RIGHT and you are WRONG.  I WANT WHAT I WANT…..

    In our culture being right is linked with a need and then an effort to be “in control.”  Many people believe they CAN control things — other people, outcomes, behavior, as well as their own thoughts and feelings.  Explore instead that you could trade in that belief that you can control things for being IN CHARGE.  It’s not semantics. It’s a true psychological difference.  You CAN be in charge — but attempting to be in control can be addictive and lead you into argument after argument as well as destroy effective communication and successful decision-making.

    A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to that moment when you “know you are right.”  It’s likely a good signal that you have STOPPED, totally stopped, listening to what the other person is saying.  If you are right, what would cause you to truly listen — fully- to what the other person is feeling.  Use the sense that you are right as a signal that, in fact, you are on the WRONG track….  Back up… LISTEN carefully, even when you disagree, to what the other person is saying …and do so before you present your idea/belief/feeling/opinion.   Consider asking the other person to repeat their position …and genuinely listen …ask questions.  Clarify.  Listening is not agreeing. It is listening.  Then ask if the other person will do the same for you …it is the “beginning” of dialogue… and it is not at all easy. You have to be a genuine grown up to listen across value differences.  And what you can learn, can sometimes amaze you…..

    So consider “being right” gains you nothing.  Listening CAN get you connected, engaged, debating, learning, making a difference in all your relationships …and if any of the above issues “grab you” — like a possible new wave of feminism, gay marriage, gun control, abortion — get involved.  Talk to people across your differences.  See how much you can learn when you don’t have to be right!  Then watch as your horizons expand — beyond your wildest expectations!

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