Reflections on the Art of Being Right

By Dorothy Tibbetts

“If I agree with you, then we’d both be wrong” seems to me to be the perfect way to handle a situation where humor might diffuse a potential confrontation.

I am one of those people who feel a great need to be right and have a great deal of trouble accepting even the possibility that I could be wrong. Some people in my life actually think one should accept being wrong gracefully. I do not know where they ever learned that. There is such pleasure to be derived from being right and such pain in being told you are wrong.

I suppose that if I dig deep enough into my conscience, I could begin to see how obnoxious I must be when I either gloat or assume my superior “I’m right and you’re wrong” pose. However, I must admit I am not ready or even willing to consider giving it up. With lots of coaching in the niceties of social engagement, I have finally learned to say, “You might be right,” without gritting my teeth. Underneath it, all I have still have the secret pleasure of knowing they are probably wrong.

As a grandparent, I have watched one of my granddaughters take great delight when she can prove that she is right and can show the other person how wrong they are. When she was young, it was cute. However, as she went through her teen years, I saw that she often paid a high price for being right. She is approaching 21 and there are signs of mellowing.

The decision I now face is whether I should introduce her to the phrase “You may be right.” Should that help, in later years I could suggest, “If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.” Or perhaps I will just let her find her own way off the “I’m right and you’re wrong” road.