"There is no more destructive force in human affairs -- not greed, not hatred -- than the desire to have been right. Non-attachment to possessions is trivial when compared with non-attachment to opinions."       

                                                                                              (Mark Kleiman)

"When you lose the need to be right - you win." (Unknown)

The old question:  "Would you rather have a relationship or be right?"   Amusing, but true.  And there is another choice to make:  "Would you rather be happy or be right?

"Being right will never lead you to happiness or even to winning."

Being right is not the same as being successful. In fact, spending time "being right" might just be one of the secrets of failure. People who are invested in being right spend time justifying bad decisions and shifting blame rather than accepting that there is another point-of-view and moving on.



"Being right" is a fear-based, believed-survival mechanism that has been abused and misused so that it creates great harm in our lives, not only in conflicts but in terms of stopping (or pushing out) a focus on solutions and what is healthy. 

We also become so attached, via false beliefs, to our beliefs and opinions that we attack or alienate ourselves from those who believe differently than others, instead of communicating to understand and build bridges that are human to human and not living the tribal instinct that worked 10,000 years ago. 

I am most concerned in this regard to individuals and their happiness, but also to how we live in the world to the benefit or the harm of each other. 

Read and think about, if you will, The Righteous, Unthinking Mind Versus The Thinking Mind - And The Effect Of Harmful Ignorance, which includes some key points from Jonathan Haidt's  The Righteous Mind - Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion, which is, I believe, an imperative read for anyone concerned about the world and the communities within it - and the individuals within each part.

Particularly, while I hope you unravel your [every human being's] "being right", and in the process buying into making others wrong, attacking, resisting, and/or obstructing them, I suggest you look at the effect it has on your close relationships and on all relationships you hold dear...

Read, if you will, those pieces linked in the right sidebar "be clear on these first" - at least the first one:  Making Wrong, Being Right - Not Workable, Not Real


Will you take the pledge?
Description of the racket
The Mindtrap
A tale of being right
Where are you coming from?
Why are you doing this?
The effort of "policing the world"
Getting perspective
People are different, period
Examples of "the force" and the cost of being right
The Pledge


Read this and decide, at the end, whether you will take the pledge.


In the box, there is an example of looking at and correcting this costly Racket.   You could skip over this and go to the commentary and either return to the box or not OR you could "think" through it by reading and noting the observations and applying that to your life and your experience.



DefinitionalHaving to be right seems to be more akin to the definition of self-righteous which Webster’s defines as convinced of one’s own righteousness (being right) especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others: narrow-mindedly moralistic.

The Behavior:  Overall classification:  Self-destructive behavior

They tend to alienate others due to their insistence on being ‘right’. The importance of the issue in question doesn’t seem to have any relevance. This is a normal stage of childhood where the child is asserting their individuality and independence. The problem arises when the behavior is carried over into adulthood.

It is a mostly fruitless, high cost attempt to exert control over others to get them "back in line" with your beliefs or your way of doing or thinking.  Control over others does not work and often ticks off the other.
(Learn Control In Life And Relationships.)

Results:  Anger and a lack of empathy seem to be the rule of thumb.

Viewpoint/beliefI know best

They perceive their ideas as the right way to do things and their viewpoints as the right way to think. A differing opinion is a direct affront to their sense of well-being and they become extremely aggressive in their defense of themselves.  (There is a confusion of what comprises "themselves".  Be clear on this:  Who I Am.)

The world revolves around their desires and needs. (A child's view.)

Condition:  Overly invested in being right or convincing the other person.  Tension, defensiveness (adrenaline).

Believed Payoffs

   Pride/survival, protection (defense) of your belief as it was part of you (which it isn't!)
         Not "losing" (sought after, but not achieved; person has lost connection to the real reason)
   Imagined exertion of control to get the other to do what you want.
   Satisfaction of convincing the other (winning!) - how often does this really happen?
   Evaluation of payoffs:       Net true payoff is:  Zero, all payoffs are imaginary and not gotten

Costs:  I get upset (loss of peace, happiness, joy)
          Lose love (often get misery and isolation)
          Freedom (I'm "compelled" and not free)
          Self-disapproval at the end and/or feel "guilty" about causing stress in another (if one is aware of
                the bad effects)
          Adrenaline hangover (feel crummy
          Miss out on the riches of what life can teach (we are closed, not listening, higher brain and
                 perspective are shut down)


Choice: Feelings I Choose:  The way I want to feel or avoid feeling is:

     I choose to be peaceful, calm, and open.  I reject upset, defensiveness, fear.

Choice:  Future chosen behavior and way of being

My rule:  Notice I'm in an argument:  Stop (or pause or  take a time out).  Just don't continue the argument, period.  It is a must not an option!  Note there is nothing really to be gained.

I need to come from a place of security in myself and a willingness just to ‘be’ with another human being without the need to force my sense of right and wrong down their throats. create a safe ‘space’ for them to be who they are and express themselves, for them to be heard, to be accepted. .  Just to listen with interest at how they are thinking.
If you give up being right, you will tend to allow others to be right, more freely express themselves because they don’t fear being judged.

Don't bother feeling guilty about it, but do do any repairing needed.  You were operating in limited awareness that resulted in unaware behavior.  The only point here is to now start doing what works and stop doing that which doesn't work. 

And realize that though the other person reverts to being defensive and alienated, there is no make wrong, as they are just doing what they think they need to do, just as you were doing.  Since you can't control the behavior of another and because that is not your job (as a non-God), you just change your own behavior.


The paradigm of "right/wrong" is a mindtrap that leads to unnecessary, unuseful suffering.  It is a game of pejorative (= disparaging) judging.  And, of course, like any game there is an expected payoff.  Mostly the payoff is simply a believed "protecting against loss." 

There is always a cost in that when one disparages oneself or another it generates negative chemicals/feelings, a form of suffering (and then we're off and running in suffering about suffering in a "chaining of thoughts").  (See also Managing The Thought Process, to stop the chaining!)  Plus the act of disparaging another, whether hidden or overt, has a cost for the relationship - you not only feel more distance but the other person is likely to experience a negative, and have less desire to be around you (or a desire to depart from you asap) - and both of you will have less happiness. 

Being right appears to many to not have any disparaging aspects to it, though.  But it is part of what is called a "duality", where there is another side to a card, but it's still the same card, the same dysfunctional way of looking at things - and the two parts go together.

If I'm making myself right, then I'm making the other wrong - even if I am not intending that.  Inevitably, the other person feels it.  That is part of human nature (and it is best not to f with human nature, for the reality of it always prevails...).

If I'm trying to be right, then I'm trying to get as far away from being wrong as I can be.  In avoiding being wrong, I have a negative feeling.  In trying to be right, I am trying to avoid being wrong - so being right is fear-basedEvery time I do it, I strengthen the fear muscle a bit more, creating a greater ability to feel fearful and another thing to watch out for as a threat (not being right is the threat). 


"So there I was, knowing that it was “right” to be fair and understand the fears and opinions of others, on both sides of the political spectrum. 

And then my significant other said something I interpreted and then judged as 'unfair' about the other side and how those people were taking away the rights of others.  Then we argued about it, stuck like a dog with a bone, trying to be heard, or not be wrong or trying to control the other or trying not to feel judged (for being unfair), and on and on. 

And afterward, we were alienated and both felt bad, and our adrenaline hangover felt heavy. 

Such a stupid thing to be all in a tither about." 


People who have this attitude often have a strong belief about fairness, e.g., life/work should be fair. They spend a lot of energy judging just what is/is not "fair" in their world, whether it directly affects them or not. Judging triggers defensiveness, which then triggers justifications - none of these is helpful in solving problems or working with others.

(Oh, I forgot to mention that, until we gain awareness and make a decision about it, almost all of us engage in this, as a usual way of dealing with life, based on false beliefs but largely determined by the human nature to "defend" a believed threat.)


As a child, we often believe that we "couldn't stand things not to be the way we want them to be", so we attempted to control others, in order to tamp down our anxiety.

You are doing this to be right, but that means that the other must be wrong (or at least they'll feel that way).  Being wrong, of course, sucks, for any human being!  Most people will fight tooth and nail not to be wrong.  If you insist on being right, you will be taking the lonely road and become a dictator, saying, in essence, “it’s my way or the highway”.

But, why do we “have to” be right?

Notice the “have to” feeling (actually it's a belief, not a feeling).  Whenever a very strong emotional imperative (a "have to")  there must be something about survival being threatened in some way.   This is a determinant cause, logically, since evolution was enabled by getting our behinds in gear quickly and forcefully to get the heck out or fight damn hard to survive.  If it was something minor that was no big deal, then there was no compelling chemical urge.    Any extreme feeling, in some way involves a believed strong threat to survival (or the capability to survive).

As in the analysis in the box above, we simply have a belief that there is a potential threat but that belief is erroneous, so we need to create a replacement belief that is true to reality.


It is a huge cost to keep scanning for imagined, unrealistic dangers and to keep hoping for rewards that are not there.

A person who is "on the alert" for threats to his/her being right (and/or the flip side, to him/her being wrong) is in continuous tension for long periods of time, with the attendant costs physically and emotionally.  Normally, this goes hand in hand with the concern to get other people's approval, which is related to others giving us some credit for rightness.


To get perspective, we ordinarily must engage in asking a question.

"If I don’t get my way, is it a matter of life and death?"

To get perspective, we must free up our attention from what is taking it.  This means we need to stop, pause or  take a time out.    

Putting this in perspective, we must realize that we are being overly invested in being right or convincing the other person and then recall that the odds of convincing are low, as are the payoffs but that the costs are very high.   We've got to know, definitely, that there is a poor chance of "winning" - and that, therefore, we must not unintelligently engage in such wishful thinking. 


And we must realize that people are different.

We each have a totally unique set of DNA.   "I do not think the same as you do and vice-versa.  Our brains are wired differently.  What seems totally natural and easy for me to do may be close to impossible for you.

Oftentimes we get caught in the thought pattern, ‘If I can see this so clearly, why in the world can’t you?’
‘If I can perform this task, why can’t you?’

But the reality is that just because I can do something does not mean that you can.

Nor does it make me better or right. Just different."

And I accept that this is the way it is.  So be it.


Classic:  Acrimonious divorce where two people spend insane amounts of money to argue about trivialities just to get even and be in the right.

A relationship:  The power of being right – one that kept them trapped in misery for decades unwilling to budge from their prized positions.


I _________________________ do hereby pledge to stop completely any arguing or convincing the instant I notice that I am being contentious or upset or the other person is being defensive or upset.

I recognize that "being right" is a natural urge, from the lower brain,  but I choose a higher way of being.  I have that power.

I recognize that the trade-offs and costs are too great and the potential payoff too slight to engage in this at all.  I understand that we all are subject to human nature and I accept that and will not battle the reality of it.  I understand that the costs of being right are alienation and natural reactive hostility, feeling bad. 

Instead, I will go into the "being kind" mode, listening to the other person as a human being who does not have perfect awareness - and I will acknowledge the person's point of view with no arguing or correcting, just appreciation that the person cares to make an argument or a statement about something.

I seek only peace and love as the highest values and I will not bring contra-energy into my life.   I love and appreciate myself and show that by permitting into my life only positive energy. 

So, my commitment is to stop completely any time I realize I am arguing or pushing to convince.  It's a 100% (best efforts) commitment, without any "well, I'll just let myself do this for now because I can't resist it", which is, of course, bull manure! 

Signed:  ____________________________________  Date: ___/___/___ 

Outside pieces
(subject to broken links, of course.)

Coach Shelley Stile on Being Right.  

Coach Rory Vaden on The High Cost Of Always Being Right.