Perhaps you’re familiar with this optical illusion or one like it. Two of us can look at this drawing and each see a very different picture. One sees a young woman looking away, another sees an old woman’s profile. AND, we are both right! Hmmm, we are both right, EVEN when we are each seeing the picture differently? Hold onto that thought for a moment.
We’ve all been to a meeting or gathering where people later describe it in such different ways that we wonder if we were even at the event. As in the illustration above, the individuals involved were both “looking at the same picture,” yet seeing it differently, from his or her unique perspective. What if both were right?
In my individual and group coaching, I have only one rule, and it’s called Rule #1: “Everybody gets to be right.”
“Everybody gets to be right” is a powerful perspective. It defines a different way of relating with one another; listening for what’s right, useful, or true about my perspective, rather than for what’s wrong with it.
Rule #1 implies a belief that every person has something of value to contribute. Every person. Including the one who is always negative, the one who plays the victim, the one who is producing mediocre results.
To embrace Rule #1 means we actively engage in looking for the value, the “rightness,” in someone else’s words or actions when the value is not immediately obvious to us. Even if we only find 2% that we can consider “right”, it’s a start. Now we’ve got common ground to stand on and continue the conversation from there.
One of my clients told me a story about two members of his team, heatedly debating back and forth. As an observer, he could see that the two viewpoints they were arguing were practically the same, with just small differences. And yet, rather than looking for the sameness or the common ground, the two team members continued their arguing, back and forth, each one trying harder and harder to make their point “right.” And, to make their teammate’s viewpoint “wrong.”
The fear of being “wrong” is a powerful motivator for me to keep my mouth shut. To withhold my opinion, rather than risk your judgment or criticism. Adopting Rule #1 into my interactions helps to alleviate the fears that hold us back in our conversations. The fears that get in the way of us creating more connection, more authenticity, and more compassion in our relationships. For example: the fear of appearing stupid, of offending someone, of being rejected, of alienating ourselves or others.
These fears fade in the face of someone’s sincere listening and compassion. As we open our minds to listen more deeply and hear what another is contributing, we also open our hearts.
- What would you be able to say, if you knew that others were committed to finding what’s right about your viewpoint, and not what they think is wrong with it?
- What would you be able to hear from others if you knew that they had something of value to contribute. If you knew that they were not “wrong?” Perhaps different. And yet, not wrong.