I have met so many people who have needed to be right all the time, this is how they changed!

We all know some people who tend to need to be right all the time and who can’t tolerate to be proven wrong. We may even have some of this going on within ourselves and wonder where it comes from.

The distortion of being right can formed in a person when they feel danger/threatened by not being right; this can be based on past experiences. In this distortion we get activated whilst in the company of others and may even worry about being proven silly or wrong.

It can also come into how we see ourselves in social situations which then causes us anxiety.

There is a self-evidence about this distortion: how could anyone know everything and be right all the time. Yet for some people, every point of contention seems like an important battle in an ongoing war of supremacy.

The person who thinks in these black and white, life and death terms does so to feel safe, but they end up just driving all those around them away.

What it looks like:

In this distortion we are usually on the defensive. We must continually prove that our viewpoint is correct, our assumptions about the world accurate, and all our actions are correct.

We aren’t interested in the possible veracity of a differing opinion, only in defending our own. Every decision we make is right, every task we perform is done competently. We never make mistakes.

Our opinions rarely change because we have difficulty hearing new information. If the facts don’t fit what we already believe we ignore them.

An auto mechanic got in the habit of stopping at the bar for three or four drinks on the way home. Frequently he got in after seven, and his wife never knew when to have dinner ready.

When she confronted him, he got angry and said that a man has a right to relax. She took it easy while he was pulling off cylinder heads all day. The mechanic had to be right and couldn’t comprehend his wife’s viewpoint.

Having to be right makes us very hard of hearing. It also makes us lonely because being right seems more important than an honest, caring relationship.

Subtly being right/getting the last word in:

When we subtly must be right, we may be able to accept that we are somewhat at fault on some things, but we refuse to let things die.

We might concede that ok, I got that wrong, but then we have to say something to try and even the score. This can also be destructive because it means we don’t let things finish and carry things on needlessly.

Maybe at some stage, it was really important for us not to come out the wrong side of an argument, or perhaps we were made feel that we could never win.

Being frustrated in this way means that we unconsciously can’t stand it when we have to accept our errors and culpabilities.

Holding a grudge:

Another response from the need to be right can be holding a grudge in our personal relationships. We might have not been able to be right, and we might also not have gotten in the last word.

We might have just accepted to someone’s face that we accept what they are saying: their decision, their view, their standpoint. But secretly we don’t and therefore we fester it.

We adhere to authority and give away our power, we smile and concede but secretly we fume and hate them for it.

We are defeated, but we will never be defeated. We can even end up hurting ourselves or self-sabotaging to hurt those who humiliated us.

This might even be saying we want one thing, but secretly not meaning it and being in a bad mood. This is different from making and acknowledging a personal sacrifice.

Why we need to be right or win:

For many of us growing up it may have been impossible to ever be right. In fact, some of us may have experienced the sensation of never being right.

If as a child we are humiliated or bullied, either by our parents, carers, siblings, teacher or peers this can be a huge defeat for a developing child. It leaves a wound where the child has been humiliated or not allowed to speak their mind.

Growing up in a “pressure cooker home” with difficult character is very daunting for a small child growing into who they are.

In this instance the child who becomes the adult may have responded in two ways.

Narcissistic traits:

We may secretly and unconsciously declare I’ll never be beaten again, I’ll never allow anyone to treat me like this again.

The adult that grows from this experience may be quite arrogant, feisty and argumentative. The humiliation of being overwhelmed while small makes the personality bitter and quick to perceived slights.

The kind of adult that comes from this child might also feel like they always need to get in the last word. Typically speaking we learn to fight fire with fire and need to be right because to be wrong reminds us of earlier defeats

When we need to be right, we are protecting our self-image and ourselves from imagined attack. We have reacted to our previous defeat not by wallowing in it, but by becoming ridged and inflexible around making sure it doesn’t happen again.

Masochistic traits:

The second way in which a child responds is by accepting the defeat, but by not really accepting the defeat. They can admit when they are beaten, but they also can never be beaten.

They identify with being wrong but then need to get the last word in the argument or they sulk, self-sabotage or find some other indirect way to win.

This kind of festering and self-destructing to get to others tends to take us nowhere. It is mostly done unconsciously and is a subtle, reverse way of hurting those who didn’t believe in us. This means we try to prove them right.

In this we also get the holding of grudges, giving away power, control fallacies, the fallacy of change and the fallacy of fairness. They don’t communicating needs and preference assertively because they weren’t allowed before, then they are taken advantage of.

Stop transferring:

Anyone who can’t stand to be wrong or who holds grudges or strikes back at themselves to win does so unconsciously.

The key to this is knowing what we are doing. Is the argument or person in front of us reminding us of anything. What happens when we admit we got it wrong.

If we can’t bear to admit it that we are wrong, then what does this say about us? Many of the people who are sure they are always right would never even read a blog on therapy, but if someone reading this is curious so far then I would say be more curious.

What’s that about, it often goes back to interactions with primary care givers.

Equally if we have masochistic traits, what happens to us when we stand up for our selves in the first place and say what we think?

Agreeing to something and then dissenting silently after the fact is a very common occurrence. Are we still living like that child who wasn’t able to asset themselves?

Are we acting from an old script from our past and cheating ourselves and others?

As adults our emotions and our views matter, so why not try to use them.

 Active Listening and expressing:

If we always have to be right, we don’t listen. We can’t afford to. Listening might lead us to conclude that we are wrong sometimes. The key to overcoming being right is active listening. As an active listener we participate in communication by repeating what we think we’ve heard in order to make sure we really understand what’s been said.

This checking out process helps two people who disagree to appreciate each other’s point of view. A proportionately greater amount of time is spent trying to understand the other person than in devising our own rebuttals and attacks.

Remember that other people believe what they are saying as strongly as we believe in our convictions, and that there is not always one right answer. Focus on what can be learnt from the other person’s opinion.

If we struggle to assert our views and then get angry about it, learn how to communicate more efficiently.

Look at our blog post on dealing with difficult people to learn how to communicate like an adult.

Learn to openly express feelings and grow self-confidence, emotional awareness and articulation.

Final thoughts:

Being right and being wrong are just constructs in our minds. No body holds a monopoly on truth and it is impossible to agree with absolutely everything someone says. If we do maybe, we just haven’t been listening well enough.

If someone reading this has to be right or finds it hard to stand up to others (or if there are people like that in life) therapy is a great place to come for personal change and improve relationships.

Other Distorted Thinking styles are also extremely important for how we deal with and suffer from anxiety. Distorted thinking styles include: Filtering, Polarized Thinking, Over-generalization, Mind Reading, Catastraphizing, Personalization, Control Fallacies, The Fallacy of Fairness, Emotional Reasoning, The Fallacy of Change, Global Labeling, Blaming, Shoulds, Being Right and Heaven’s Rewards Fallacy.

I am a psychotherapist working in private practice in Dublin 11 near Glasnevin Cemetery, 10-15 minutes from the city centre, 5 minutes from Phibsboro and close to Finglas, Santry, Cabra, Drumcondra. Call/text 087 063 0948 for appointments.

Anxiety Ireland has a network of counselors across Ireland. Feel free to message me or the Facebook page for more information.

If curious about anxiety please feel free to visit our website, take our anxiety quiz or get anxiety help.

Again, I am always happy to answer messages to our page or I am happy to take calls/text to see how I can help:

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087 063 0948.

Team Anxiety Ireland

Anxiety is a merry-go-round, going nowhere fast, it’s ok to step off.

Our other articles on thought distortions include: Filtering, Catastrophizing, Polarized thinking, All or nothing thinking, Mindreading, Shoulds, Emotional Reasoning, Global labeling and of course the Fallacys: Being Right, Control Fallacies, Fallacy of Fairness and Fallacy of Change. (Find blogs about these in our photos on facebook/website).