Are You Stuck on Being Right?



“You never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.” — George Clooney

What if people didn’t need to be right?

Or, to ask it another way, how much more energy would everyone have, if people didn’t debate as if their ego depended on it?

I grew up in a group where people were encouraged not to be right, but to ask better questions, and to learn through feedback.

The idea was that if you fell into the trap of needing to be right, you would stop learning from the people, the ideas, and the insights all around you.  The very information that you need to do a better job.

Looking back, it was some of the best training for life.  I learned to stay curious.  When you need to be right, people won’t bring you the information you need to survive and thrive.

In The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, authors Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Warner Klemp help leaders see how the need to be right, limits your own growth, and sucks the energy out of everyone involved.

Being Right Sucks Up a Lot of Energy

When a leader needs to be right, it hijacks the group energy, and brings everybody down.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

“Once she left, the entire group breathed a collective sigh of relief.  They  recognized that Sarah’s defensiveness was consuming huge amounts of group energy and was no longer supporting their learning and growth.  (By the way, this often happens in organizations: a leader’s defensiveness hijacks group energy, bringing down the entire collaborative effort.)”

Don’t Get Stuck on Being Right

One of the most effective things that conscious leaders do, that others don’t, is that they stay open and curious.  They commit to curiosity as a path for learning and growth.

In other words, they don’t get stuck on being right.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

“Quite possibly, no other commitment is more central to the core of unconscious people than the one to being right. 

This is for good reason. 

As we said in the introduction to the book, being right is connected to survival and survival is all that matters.

 Our brains are hardwired for self-preservation–we are constantly seeking to protect not only our physical well-being but our ego as well.”

We Don’t Have to Use Much Energy to Defend Things We Believe are True

When you know you’re right, you don’t need to spend much energy, and you don’t need to fight as though your ego or identity depended on it.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

“Please understand, the issue isn’t ‘being right’ but rather ‘wanting to be right’ and ‘fighting to be right.’ and proving we are right.’ 

When talking to a group, we often illustrate this by asking everyone to think of a simple, unarguable arithmetic axiom that they’re confident is ‘right.’ 

Once this comes to their mind, we ask the how attached they are to being right about this rule.  How much energy do they have to fight for or defend  the fact that 2 + 2 = 4 (the arithmetic axiom most people think of)?  Usually they observe that they have very little energy to fight for the rightness of their belief. 


From our perspective, it’s because they know they are right and don’t need to defend this law as though their identity or ego depended on it.”

What is Right Doesn’t Need to be Defended

Attachment is all about the ego.  What individuals really want is validation and appreciation.

Getting stuck on being right is really about individuals wanting to be validated and appreciated.

Via The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership:

“Next, we ask the same leaders to bring to mind an ‘issue’ that they are fighting to be right about at work or in their private lives. 

It doesn’t take them long to find one. 

When we invite them to notice the difference between their need to defend, justify, and explain why they are right about this issue and their need to defend 2 + 2 = 4, they often have an epiphany.

Unusually they discover two things. 

First, if they are honest with themselves, they see that they aren’t nearly as certain about the ‘rightness’ of their viewpoint as they act. 

Second, they realize that wanting to be right, being seen as being right, and being validated and appreciated for being right are what they really want.  This attachment is all about the ego.  What is ‘right’ doesn’t need to be defended.  The equation 2 + 2 = 4 doesn’t require us to fight about its validity.”

Don’t get stuck on being right.

Stay curious.

Help others see what they don’t see.

Find out what others see, that you don’t see, or how they see it, in a way that you don’t.

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