What exactly are we trying to accomplish by proving to others that we’re right?
We might win the argument but ultimately lose the relationship. Perhaps a better, deeper-rooted question is this: Why do we lose sight of success, of our big objective when we feel challenged or intimidated?
When I prepare to negotiate, provide a service or turn my employees’ talent into performance, I know deep down that if I make people feel valuable they will see my input as having value. But in that moment when they are just hands-down across-the-board dead wrong, I sometimes can’t stop myself from letting them know how incredibly wrong they are. When that happens, my ability to influence them vaporizes on the spot, and I’m left dealing with the response I created by making them wrong.
I think this is the most consistently counterproductive thing we do in business and, I suspect, in our personal lives too. It may be the foundation of communication breakdown. Maybe this behavior is so prevalent because it’s part of human nature. Could we be natural born jerks? (Jerkdom – nature or nurture?) If so, how do we overcome the urge to prove our point at the expense of our business or relationship?
Wynn Solutions studied thousands (5,371) of top communicators and compared that with Evolve Performance Group data (employee engagement specialist comprised of former Gallup researchers including those who developed the Strengthsfinder concept) and saw a common behavior among them: the practice of not making people wrong. We decided to find out how they did it.
We discovered that these top communicators lowered their expectations of other people’s behavior before meeting with them face to face. It seemed to reduce the tendency to overreact in the heat of the moment. Also, they walked in the door with an agenda of not making the other person wrong and of looking for areas where the other person’s knowledge was strong. So when that moment came – when other people made their limited knowledge obvious – top communicators were not so ready to pounce.
This approach may sound a bit condescending to some, but it sure beats dealing with communication issues you create for yourself by having to prove you’re the smartest person in the room. It allows you to be right without making others feel wrong.