Matthew Schad

Matthew Schad

Being right isn't important

Have you ever had your evidence-proven arguments shot down because your counterpart just had to be right?

I'm sure you've done it yourself too. I think we all experience it with our parents or one another at some point.

When coping under high stress, fear, or distrust, your brain releases cortisol. Executive functions responsible for strategy, trust, and empathy come to a halt. Your instincts take over and determine how to best protect from shame or loss of power, bludgeoning your ability to regulate emotions.

Common responses under such pressure are:

  • Fight (argue the point)
  • Flight (revert to group consensus)
  • Freeze (disengage entirely)
  • Appease (play nice by agreeing)

All of these responses stop us from sharing our perspectives, causing harm to relationships in the end.

Arguing and winning fills us with adrenaline and dopamine, adding to the addiction of being correct.

If one leader is high on dominance, others are drowned into submission and responding in one of the four ways noted above.

What's the alternative?

Instead of choosing defensive, offensive, and egotistical games employing arguments, why not open up trust and sharing?

The goal is to release oxytocin, opening our prefrontal cortex, inducing trust and connection.

These are a few exercises that can help solve the problem:

  • Have everybody write down their ideas and the conclusion in a place where everybody can see them; there is more accountability in the written word than the verbal brush-offs.
  • Speak less, listen more. It creates a circle of trust when everybody wants to understand each others' blockers.
  • Set the meeting agenda by asking all attendees for important information and blockers - not status updates. Seek the signal and reduce the noise.

In fights, people are upset when their counterparts are correct; in sportsmanship, they connect.