I am always right

(Sreenath H S)

It is easy to fall into this trap: what I say is always right. It calls for a great deal of honesty, courage and intelligence to see both sides of an argument or a situation, and conclude that much might be said on both sides. Of course, in a few situations, where ambiguity is undesirable, even disastrous, it is inevitable that one has to take a clear stand; but in most situations, especially in social or business contexts, flexibility is a mark of maturity and smartness. This disease, which can be termed as ‘i-am-always-right disease,’ if not treated early in life, gets worse with age, and reaches a stage where it becomes incurable.

In my decades of experience as a business man, I have often met people who foolishly argue that only their point of view is the right one, and find a million faults with what others have to say or do. Two recent examples come to my mind. Recently, a senior customer of mine suggested that I should reduce the cost of a certain service, currently being provided to the residents of Sharadindu, our senior commune at Mysore, as he felt that particular service was overpriced. After explaining the rationale behind the pricing, I told him that since that particular service was regularly made use of only by a handful of people, it would be prudent to take their views, too, into account, before any decision was made either as to the nature of the service or as to its cost. This gentleman got so annoyed that his suggestion was not readily accepted that he sent me a mail, accusing me of being stubborn and illogical.  I found his attitude not only immature, but also amusing. Having convinced himself that he was 100% right and that I was totally wrong, he thought it fit to accuse me of being stubborn, when all I had told him was that I would have to discuss with other people who were likely to be affected by the decision, before a final decision was made. In another incident, a highly boastful marketing man met me to discuss the possibility of his association as an interior designer with us. I told him that I could not possibly discuss any business arrangement with him, unless he first visited the development, to know firsthand what was actually being built. On his return from the construction site, he met me and for nearly an hour told me how he would have gone about developing the property and how sound his ideas were and how smart he was!  I fully agreed with him that his ideas were better than mine and that he was infinitely smarter than me, and got rid of him, after politely telling him that I would get back to him, at the right time.

In both cases, both these persons were completely convinced that there was a definite finality about their views. One might often wonder what makes some people so completely blindsided that they cannot see or comprehend a different point of view or opinion. The reason is that some people have irrepressible urge, which can be traced to their low self-esteem, to prove that they are smarter, better or more powerful than the rest. Loss of respect is not the only unfortunate fallout of such boorish attitude. Such people make poor negotiators, as they, by their inflexibility, compel the people they are negotiating with to take a firm stand on their positions. The net result is that issues do not get resolved and deals are not cut.

This I-am-always-right attitude is more prevalent among the ones who owe their success, as it were, to extraneous circumstances, rather than to their own effort – a successful spouse, political contacts, or inherited wealth. It is rather amusing that these people, who are so completely convinced that their own rigid, one-sided stand reflects firmness, view the same attitude in others as pigheadedness.

From market to marriage, all relations in life are transactional. They involve two or more people or groups or parties, and prudence enjoins that all parties concerned should keep their options open, listen to the other side with an open mind, put across their respective points of view with as much clarity as possible, so that a mutually acceptable agreement is worked out. If one of the parties takes a stand that only their points of view are to be accepted by all, no deal can go through. Besides this obvious fallout, the party that refuses to respect the points of view of the other party or parties to the negotiations will lose respect and business both.

Overcoming this Weakness

The first step in this direction is, of course, recognizing the fact that the rest of the world does not take us at our own exalted estimate. Once we become wise enough to recognize and accept this bitter truth, we learn to see others’ point of view and find in us the strength, the hidden strength we were unaware of, to see merit in the points of view different to ours, and become less rigid and more persuasive. As we realize the power of persuasiveness, we begin to see a rise in our innate sense of self-worth. This enhanced self-esteem greatly helps us to see opposing or differing points of view or opinions, and gives us the power to bring the other party around to our points of view. A deal may or may not go through, in the end, depending on a variety of factors, but people who are open-minded and flexible at least earn respect and goodwill. No body can ever say respect and goodwill are of little consequence.

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