Peggy Marshall

Do You Want to be Happy or Right?

“If you propose to speak, ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.”

At this time of year, we are invited to a number of get togethers as well as family events. With the variety of interactions increasing it would be normal for conflicts to arise.  This realization caused me to pause and think about the goal of many conflicts which is, for many, to win the conflict.  It reminded me of a student I once taught who was so caught up in getting revenge on her roommate that she forgot that this was her best friend.  She was going to allow “winning” to cloud her vision of what she really wanted-a close connection with her friend.

To ask someone if they want to be happy or right seems counter-intuitive because in most circumstances we do not believe the two concepts to be mutually exclusive.  However, in the case of close friendships and/or family they just might be.  What is packed in our desire to be right and win an argument?  How are our fears showing up as we continue in a conversation that we know will result in no winner but only two losers because in winning we often lose?  Think about it, when we correct someone, when we teasingly put them down, when we challenge and debate for the sake of winning, when we bring up past mistakes, we are not actually winning but breaking relationships apart.  I have heard clients say “but it was only the truth”.  Yes, often we can defend or excuse our comments as representing the truth however the question is “do you want to be happy or right”?

Wayne Dyer in “Change your Thoughts, Change your Life”  challenges us to be flexible in our thinking.   He uses the example of a palm tree in a hurricane.  The palm can bend to almost reaching the ground however it does not break.  This is true for our beliefs about what is right or wrong and what it true especially when it related to opinions.  Opinions are typically neither right or wrong, just something someone chooses to believe.  Being able to bend like a palm and either walking away or just allowing the other to believe what he or she wants can save many relationships.

Recognizing that each of us has a right to our beliefs is also empowering.  Marshall Goldsmith in “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”  shares that we all have the capacity to move beyond our current state into a more successful version of ourselves.  However, it means letting go of beliefs about ourselves and others, particularly in the being right space to a more accepting space.  From making true but destructive comments to an excessive need to be right to adding too much value, we jeopardize our relationships when we don’t allow the other to be their own perfect self.

Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning  challenges us in the area of tolerance of others with this statement “being tolerant does not mean that I share another one’s belief. But it does mean that I acknowledge another one’s right to believe, and obey, his own conscience.”  Being able to recognize that the beliefs of others don’t change you, rather they only represent someone’s journey.  When you can allow them to be in that space, it is potentially the most amazing practice we can give one another.

In challenging us to accept what is happening in our lives, Byron Katie in “Loving What Is”  offers a turnaround process for us to successfully navigate through what we find trying.  Typically, when something does test our ability to accept what is, we have numerous thoughts about the topic from “he or she shouldn’t be doing that to people need to (fill in the blank)” to allowing thoughts about ourselves personally which diminish our self-esteem and feelings about ourselves.  The first question to ask ourselves is “is it true?”.  Next we ask “is it really true?”.  The second question asks us to deeply question whether what we are thinking is really true about the situation or the other.  Many times we may end up with the answer “no”.  Even if we arrive at two “yesses”, the next question can change our experience with the situation or person.  “How do I feel when I think this way?”.  If our thinking or believing is stressing us out, we need to recognize the impact and shift to a place of acceptance-if we want to feel at peace and happy which is where we land with the fourth question “How would I feel if I didn’t think this way?”.

It is critical that we recognize we have thoughts that take us into acceptance or away from acceptance immediately before speaking.  Authors contend that it is seconds however we do have time before speaking to check ourselves. A Buddhist guideline to think about prior to responding, “Is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”.  During this season the question for you as you spend time with family and friends, is “Do I want to be happy or right?”  The choice is yours.

To Your Success!

Dr. Peggy