Are You Mr or Ms “Right All The Time?”


Have you ever found yourself stuck in a conversation where the other person just won’t give up?

You know the drill: 

  • Your boss is moving mountains to prove they know better
  • Your customer won’t back down about who was wrong that day (surprise…it’s allegedly you)
  • A colleague is working harder to defend their project than they did on the project itself…

We’ve all been in situations where someone simply must prove their expertise or worth. They rarely end well, leading mostly to arguments, disagreements, and other unpleasant conflicts in the workplace. 

And let’s face it: all because someone needs to be right!

It’s frustrating, tiring, and even hurtful. So why do they do it at all?

As unexpected as it might be, it often comes down to insecurity. Proving that we are “right” about something can be a way to make us feel better when we are worried; about our perceived competence, our expertise, our experience…and the list goes on and on.

These concerns tend to bubble up most frequently when we’re under strain. So if you guessed it, you’re correct—wanting to be right all the time is usually a stress reaction!

What Drives The Need To Be Right?

What makes people act this way, you might be wondering?

Quite some research has been done into this topic, and it comes down to our thoughts when we are stressed.  

Psychological studies have highlighted the link between increased stress, more rigid thinking, and a greater perceived need to defend our beliefs and views. We feel less confident at times like these, especially about our capabilities and decisions. 

This translates into a drive to be viewed as “right” or “justified” by others, which provides us with some validation and makes us act in specific ways. Like arguing over our ideas, refusing to shoulder the blame—you get the gist!

While the different manifestations of this need will vary between people and situations, stress and insecurity remain at the heart of this reaction. When we learn to see it as a warning sign of stress rather than plain old disagreeability, we can take steps to better manage the pressures on us.

For this reason, Wanting To Be Right can be a very useful Stress! Coaching Card.

3 Tips to Change Your Attitude

These mindset and self-reflection tips will help you identify what’s causing your “I’m Right!” behavior and turn it around for the better.

1. Unearth The Real Cause

Are you finding it hard to drop the subject unless everyone sees things your way? Whether you’re trying to justify your rationale, highlight your intelligence, or prove your innocence (!), it’s worth finding the source of your behavior.

This tip is about pausing to think—why do you want to fix or contradict something? Can you even come up with a reason?

When fighting an (often pointless) battle, stop and take note of your attitude. Schedule some time to think back on your past conversations and ask yourself a few self-reflective questions:

  • Did I “need to be right” today?
  • What stressors might have caused my behavior?

I suggest taking two minutes at the end of every workday for this exercise. The sooner you let go of your justifications, the sooner you’ll stop feeling that urge.

2. Focus On What’s Right!

Needing to be right is very much about negativity bias: we’re so fixated on what’s “wrong” about a situation that it seems impossible to drop our stance.

Turning this around takes some cognitive effort—look for what’s right instead, and you’ll find fewer opportunities to pick a fight or hold your ground.

Here are a few useful pointers to help you:

  • Change your focus from winning to understanding: What do you and the other party agree on? What value have you both brought to the discussion? How can you build on those positives?
  • Try to see things from your conversation partner’s perspective: Ask questions to unpack their arguments, listen actively when they speak, and try to really step into their shoes.

3. Reframe Your Thinking

Successfully managing a cognitive stress reaction is all about changing your mindset, so my third tip is to reframe your perspective.

If you’ve acknowledged that you’re the one who simply needs to be right, try changing how you look at disagreements. This is rather like a growth mindset mentality: try viewing disagreements as personal growth opportunities rather than a threat to your self-esteem. 

By adopting this mindset, your goal will become learning rather than winning discussions. You’ll become more open to fresh ideas and ways of seeing things, which leads to more productive, positive conversations. 

The less focused you are on “victory,” the less defensive (and annoying!) you’ll become. You’ll probably find that this does wonders for your relationships, and the outcomes of your conflicts will improve.

Nicolien Dellensen

Nicolien Dellensen, Senior Consultant and behavioral specialist and creator and owner of the ’Sphere of Influence 360º’ a comprehensive concept and (360) online tool about interactive dynamics.

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