There are the positive attributes of care and integrity hidden in our righteousness as well as grit in our stubbornness. If we are not afraid to embrace our flaws -and soften their rigidity- we can leverage them for growth.
Patrick is not afraid, and Patrick is stubborn. He’s not proud of this character trait but he doesn’t mind admitting to it. His stubbornness is grounded in facts. He’s stubborn when he’s right, and he’s right when he knows for a fact that 2+2=4. If he believes that you believe that 2+2=5, he will convince you that 2+2=4. And in most cases, he’s proven right! So, it’s difficult not to be stubborn.
His colleagues find it hard to collaborate with him at times, but he’s also very confident and efficient. It’s a tradeoff.
Patrick’s wife is stubborn too. They both want to be right. They argue and then shut down waiting for the other to drop their point of view first. Patrick is perceptive. He understands his wife’s perspective and why she thinks she’s right. But as long as his wife doesn’t acknowledge that his perspective is right too, he can’t let go.
Referring to popular wisdom, I ask him: “Patrick, do you prefer that you be right or happy?” (I found later that the quote is attributed to Jerry Jampolsky.)
The question calls out to him. He sees the costs of his being right mode at home: a lot of frustration and arguments with his wife – loss of connection – and difficulty problem solving together, especially as parents.
He sees the costs at work too: he doesn’t know how to constructively relate to and influence others. He doesn’t have the consistent communication skills to listen, inquire, influence, negotiate or coach. His need to be right and validated overtakes everything else.
In his upbringing, it was important for Patrick to be responsible and dependable. He’s a man of his word and has strong principles. He does what he says he will. He takes pride in his work. To know what is right, is to be competent, responsible and dependable.
When I started my journey of personal development almost 30 years ago, my biggest blind-spot -and first aha- was to discover that, in my discrete way – because I had experienced a lot of learned helplessness (link) – my only power left was to silently judge and be right. I’m still processing this insight. Being right has a pervasive and addictive power. To my surprise Patrick agrees.
For those, like me or Patrick, who are constantly working on softening their righteous edge and embrace other’s perspectives, our job is not to try to accept that 2+2=5. Our job is to be open-minded to a much simpler formula: my 2+2 and your 2+2 = 8