David Strittmatter

Stop needing to be right

Sometimes it is better to be kind than right. We do not need an intelligent mind that speaks, but a patient heart that listens


  • Stop needing to be right all the time if you want to be happier
  • Conceding feels great
  • There is nothing gained but only damage caused when you insist on being right

Practical advice:

  • Identify situations that aren’t worth a discussion
  • Ask yourself: Would you rather be happy or right?
  • Shift the focus to aspects you like talking about, and you both consent.

Dear friend,

I’m sure this situation is familiar to you: You’re talking with your friends about a polarizing topic, such as “Who is the best soccer player in the world?”. As there is no clear answer to such a question, discussing it can cause fierce arguments. Often these discussions can be entertaining and fun. However, sometimes they are emotionally charged and won’t come to a good end since both parties won’t make concessions.

There are plenty of these situations in which both parties want to be right, causing frustration and dissatisfaction, for instance, two people arguing who was first in line, stranger people fighting for a parking spot, or liberals and conservatives talking about who president was the worst.

In today’s blog article, I want to give you reasons why you should stop needing to be right, tips on how you can withstand this need, and point out situations in which you should take a clear stance.

Why you should stop needing to be right

There’re plenty of reasons why you should stop always insisting on being right. In the teachings of Buddha, for example, the abandonment of this need is a fundamental element. In this blog post, though, I want to focus on the three most significant reasons that make me withstand the desire to be always right.

Would you rather be right or happy?

Firstly, being right all the time, winning arguments one after another, and educating others about one’s beliefs might trigger a very satisfying feeling. However, a verbal confrontation is still a bilateral event. Most often, an emotionally charged argument won’t end peacefully if the two parties resist making concessions. Hence, the “winner” of such a verbal fight is actually not right, but just more reluctant. So, even if you feel like that you won the argument and convinced the other person from your opinion, the other person usually just doesn’t feel like debating with you anymore. Thus, there is actually nothing really gained but only damage caused. In turn, if you concede and resist the temptation to argue to the bitter end, you make the other person feel good, can keep your inner peace, and can focus on topics you agree on. Additionally, most often, several people are witnessing these situations as well and the person insisting on one’s right is often perceived as a douchebag and immature person. Concluding, if you want to live a happier life, stop needing to be right all the time.

Conceding feels great

From my past experience, I can tell you that making concessions is a great feeling once you get used to it. If you’re able to identify arguments that aren’t worth discussing and quickly abandon these disputes, you will experience a great sense of superiority, maturity, inner peace, and contentment. In my view, it feels much better to resist the temptation of being right and concede than to argue until the other person surrenders.

You know that you’re right. Telling the other person that s/he might be right as well won’t make your view “less right”. For instance, if your friend thinks the soccer player Messi is better than Ronaldo, you can concede that you understand why s/he thinks Messi is the better player because of reason x, y, and z. And use this as a transition to another topic, such as why soccer players are so expensive and whether the price tags are justified. You don’t have to admit that Messi is better, you should just admit that the other person’s opinion is valid, too.

You won’t make a real difference

If you really want to convince or persuade someone, solely arguing won’t help you to succeed.

Making someone wrong doesn’t shut down the problem or conflict, it just applies a temporary silence and drives the issue underground. The person who was made wrong either carries a quiet resentment or his/her anger will rear up somewhere else. As previously noted: There is actually nothing really gained but only damage caused when you insist on being right.

Even if your motivation to be right is to make a difference and have a (positive) impact on another person, you’re most likely to fail if you just argue until the other person surrenders. We don’t like being wrong and we don’t like being criticized or educated, particularly if we’re strongly convinced of something.

Therefore, you need to approach people differently if you really want to persuade them. I wrote a whole article on this topic. Click here to read the summary or the whole article (7 min read).

How to withstand the need to be right

I really hope you got my points and now want to know how can achieve a level of sovereignty so that you can resist the desire to be always right.

First of all, and that’s the most difficult part, in my opinion, you have to identify situations that aren’t worth a discussion and remind yourself to stop arguing.

Once you recognize that the other person has a different stance on a subject than you, you should contemplate whether you should raise your voice and debate.

To find out whether something is worth discussing, you should first understand the other person’s view. Why does this person have this opinion? Does this have an impact on you? Do you want to convince the other person of something? Or do you have a need to share your opinion and take a clear stance on his/her comments (for instance, your friend is racist or homophobic)?

If you’re not sure that the argument is worthwhile or you’re sure that it isn’t worth it, you shouldn’t argue and try to switch the topic as smoothly as possible. Let the person say whatever s/he wants to, agree on the points you truly can agree on but shift the focus to aspects of the subject you like talking about, and you both consent.

When you shouldn’t stand down

In case something is really important to you and you think you have to make your point and share your view, you shouldn’t concede. However, you should be careful with regard to how you approach this kind of confrontations.

These disputes have to take place on a rather objective and rational basis, not on an emotional one.

To manage these situations successfully, I would recommend you to consider a few important steps: First of all, stay calm. If you lose your temper, you’ll lose the argument. You might still make the person surrender if you lose your nerves, however, you won’t convince him/her of anything. Secondly, ask questions to understand the other person and clearly clarify the points you disagree on. Thirdly, use logic and facts as evidence for your position. If you’re not sure about something, don’t use it as part of your arguments or admit this insecurity. Fourthly, listen carefully, understand the argument from the other person’s perspective, and don’t interrupt him/her. Fifthly, concede the good points and look for a win-win, meaning that you should be open-minded and compromise. Lastly, switch the conversation once it becomes too emotional. Tell the other person that you appreciate the conversation, but you would like to postpone it to another day.

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