This week, we’re expanding our Conflicts series by diving into a favorite mantra of Anna’s, “Be kind, not right.” When we find ourselves in a disagreement, we usually feel pretty strongly that we have the right answer or view of the situation and we’ll continue to defend and explain to convince the other person they’re wrong.
But this approach will never improve a relationship and it can do a lot of damage. It’s valuable to consider whether it feels better to let go of some of that defensiveness in order to learn more about the situation.
We hope today’s episode sparks some fun insights for you and we invite you to dive deeper with our Episode Questions. Join us on Instagram or YouTube to continue the conversation and share your reflections.
Let’s dig deep, challenge paradigms, choose connection, and live joyfully!
1. How would choosing “Be kind, not right” change exchanges with the people you love?
2. Do you feel resistance to setting aside your position? What does it feel like to play with that idea?
3. Think of a recent conflict you were engaged in. What was the underlying need you were trying to meet with the perspective or path you were arguing for? Can you think of another way you could have met that need? Might it have been met with less resistance?
ANNA: Hi and welcome to the Living Joyfully Podcast! We’re so happy you’re here exploring relationships with us, who we are in them, out of them, and what that means for how we move through the world.
If you’re new to the podcast, we encourage you to go back and listen to the earlier episodes. We started with some foundational relationship ideas and just really have enjoyed how all that’s coming together. And if you’ve already been enjoying the podcast, we’d love it if you could leave a rating or review wherever you listen. That definitely helps new people find us.
So, on today’s episode, it’s part of our relationship series, and we’re going to be talking about a mantra that has served me well over many years, and that is, “Be kind, not right.” When we find ourselves in a disagreement, we usually feel pretty strongly that we have the right answer, approach, or view of the situation. And we spend the discussion or conflict trying to convince the other person that they are wrong. We will defend and explain and pick apart their position. And it doesn’t mean that we’re holding any malice necessarily. We just truly believe we’re right and that they need to understand that now.
But here’s the thing. This approach will never improve a relationship and it can do a lot of damage. We talked about listening a few weeks ago and how listening helps us learn and understand our loved ones and where they’re coming from, but sometimes it’s hard, because we really know we’re right and we really want them to understand.
And so, one of the quick tools that has helped me when I’m stuck there is to think of this person that I love and realize that I would rather be kind than right. I can be right all day long, but if it disconnects me from the people that I love, what have I really gained? I have to ask myself if I really want to just sit here alone in my rightness.
PAM: That’s such a great way to describe it, because it conjures up such a vivid image in my mind. I’m like sitting on a stool by myself off to the side. My body’s upright and tense. I’m ready to ward off any detractors, just sure that my take on the situation is the right one, and I’m just waiting for them to come around.
And as I just kind of sit there, it does feel disconnected and lonely in some ways. So, I think contemplating what I’m getting out of standing resolutely in my rightness is so helpful when I’m starting to feel stuck in a conflict, when I notice that I’m repeating myself, trying to convince them I’m right, yet having nothing new to add to the conversation.
So, at that point, I can start by just releasing the question of who’s right or wrong for now. I can always come back to that later if need be. But for now, I can ask myself some questions. So, what do things look like? What’s the energy in the room? How are the people involved feeling, including me? What’s my connection with this person that I love feeling like right now? What are my priorities in this moment and why?
ANNA: Exactly. And this can be a time for being open and curious, which you’ve heard us talk about so much. Because being open, asking ourselves questions, looking at the situation with a wider angle lens, can help us see things that we’ve been missing. And it’s like you were saying, you weren’t bringing any new information. We’re just kind of hammering that same thing.
So, we want to open it up a little bit. I think it’s important, or at least it is to me, to remember that I don’t have to give up my idea of what I think is right. I can hold on to that and still choose to react to the person in front of me with kindness.
What I’ve found is that, when I’m able to do that, I actually learn a lot about what’s going on for the person. And we are typically able to actually remain connected while we navigate the disagreement, because we don’t get locked into this attack and defend mode. We’re really trying to understand each other better. And remaining connected is the key to smoothly navigating conflict. Be kind, not right, is just a helpful reminder that my priority is to be in relationship with this person.
When I can keep that front and center, it’s easier to find the softness. It’s easier to remember what I love about this person and why I want to set aside my ideas in the moment to connect and hear them. And again, that knowing that I don’t have to give up my belief about the right, because that can take me a few minutes, it’s really just more about learning more.
PAM: Yes. Yes. I really think that can be a big stumbling block. I’ve experienced that as a big stumbling block. The idea that being kind and compassionate with the other person during a conflict, like the idea that that means we’re implicitly admitting we’re wrong. When I first came across that, it was a very novel idea, that my goal when navigating conflict doesn’t need to be to win, to get the other person to concede defeat. Instead, it can be about remembering that my ultimate goal is to prioritize my close relationships, recognizing that the connected and respectful long-term relationship that I want to have with this person is of higher value than the perception of winning or losing this particular battle.
Absolutely, that said, it is not an easy shift to make, and part of that is definitely because the idea of winning is so tightly wrapped up in our culture as a measure of our value as a person. A win is another tick box and another tick box, and the more you have, the better person you are. But eventually, I managed to give myself permission and some space to play with it.
And what I learned through that experience really was pretty amazing for me. As you mentioned, when I didn’t lock myself into that attack/defend mode of communication back and forth, I instead was asking questions, trying to understand their perspective. I just learned so much more about them, about how they tick, and what they value, and why, and just how their day is going in this moment.
ANNA: Yes. And it works in all kinds of situations. Just to give a silly example, let’s say your partner was supposed to make a phone call to get the car fixed. You both agreed that they would make the call that day. Well, the next day arrives, the call wasn’t made, and now they’re changing their story.
Well, they didn’t know or they thought it was later. You’re hearing some excuses. And so, we can have an argument about the original agreement or we can extend kindness and say, “Okay, well I guess we had a misunderstanding. No worries. Do you want to call now or should I?” Nothing is gained by me trying to convince them that I was right about the plan and point out how they fell short. It just makes them feel bad. It disconnects us and we still haven’t made the call.
And so, when we catch anyone in a story, be it a child or a partner, there’s always something behind that. It’s possible that they feel unsafe telling us the truth. That is always something I want to examine.
Why would someone feel that way? Have I been reacting in anger? Do they feel like they’ll get in trouble? That can be a trigger for a lot of people. But that’s not an environment I want to cultivate in my home or in my close relationships, because we all make mistakes. We all forget to do things.
We all have tough days.
But when I’m able to show up and be kind and listen, I learn more about what’s going on with them. Maybe they were overwhelmed that day. Maybe something happened at work or school that put them in a bad space. I would much rather know that and be there as a support, than to prove I was right and leave us both feeling bad.
And so, this can also apply to just differences in beliefs. We’ll often be faced with people we love seeing situations differently. It could be political in nature, or just the way we want to handle a situation. There’s no one definitive answer for all the things. There’s always nuances. And even if I feel very secure in my belief, which I often do, I will leave room for others to have their own.
Because, again, if we can remain open and curious, we will learn something. It may not change our mind, but we will have a much better understanding of the other side of the argument, and that’s just always worth something. This is especially true of people we want to be in loving relationships with. And what I’ve found is that when I choose kindness over being right, we leave the door open for both parties to learn more about each other.
PAM: Yes. Choosing kindness and curiosity really helps me better understand the underlying needs that they’re trying to meet. You know, why do they feel that they need to make up the story? I don’t need to argue about the excuse or win the excuse. But oh my gosh. To ask questions about it, to get curious about that, and to even ask myself questions like, why is this important to me? Why is it important to them? How does their stance in this conflict or even conversation meet that underlying need for them?
Because once we can get to talking about our needs rather than the surface expression of them that we’re arguing about in this moment, we have the opportunity to find a path forward through the conflict that actually works better for both of us, better than the original solutions that we had each proposed and were arguing back and forth about.
When we move away from the focus of the conflict being determining who is right and who is wrong, and instead choose to navigate the challenges and the conflicts through the bigger picture lens of kindness, I just find that it makes such a huge difference in our days. It’s like, we’re together. Right?
ANNA: It’s such a huge difference. That feeling of, we’re in this together facing the challenges as a team. I don’t want to pit myself against my partner or my children. I want to keep things open and encourage conversations and learning. And what I’ve found is, when we’re working together, we find the ways to meet everyone’s needs much faster than if we’re all in this very defensive stance of trying to explain our needs and defend our needs. I don’t want that idea that we have to defend our needs to be a part of the equation with the people that I love. It’s like, no, we’ll figure this out together.
PAM: Oh, you know what I think is really interesting too, is when I’m coming into those complex conversations? It’s the the fact that so often, even with myself when I proposed a solution or like, this is what we need to do, and I’m trying to convince them that this is the right way, I haven’t really thought about what the needs are underneath it. I have already jumped to the solution.
So, that’s why taking those couple of minutes to just pause for a second, and think, why is that the only solution that I see? Opening up to other possibilities. And the same with somebody else. When they are saying, ah, I need to do this and I need to do this now, that’s not literally the need. So often, that is the path forward or the solution to the need. So, let’s dig a little bit deeper, whether you can do that in conversation with them or just yourself thinking about it like, oh, why is this so important to them? Why is this the direction they need to take now?
And when we can peel back a layer on it and discover what’s underneath and just start pointing the conversation in that direction, that’s where all the rich stuff happens and the learning that we’re talking about.
ANNA: Right. And just one more quick thing about that, because so often, that is so important to catch, am I jumping to solutions or am I really expressing my need? Because there’s a big difference. And the problem with jumping to solutions is we’re jumping to the best solution for us. And what happens when we’re dealing with other people is, that may not be the best solution for them in that they might want to move through that in a very different way.
And so, when we get so locked in on our one solution, this being right, we just lose sight of so much, and it really can damage the relationship. And this is in business practices. This is in all areas where we just need to leave that open, express our needs, so that we can then meet the needs as opposed to barreling in with the best solution.
PAM: Exactly! And when we can do that, get to that layer underneath, it’s not admitting we’re wrong. Because it’s like, oh, there are other possibilities to meet this need that can mesh with the other people who are involved. So, right back to that, be kind, not right. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It just might be the, the proposed solution or the way you end up going looks different than what you first thought.
ANNA: Exactly. It may not work for everybody. And we can still get our needs met. Anyway, it’s super fascinating. I think it’ll be fun for everybody to kind of think about this one for a while. So, we’ll dig into just a few quick questions for this week.
The first one is, how would choosing “Be kind, not right” change exchanges with the people you love? I think it’s just really helpful to look at some of those exchanges. And do you feel resistance to setting aside your position and what does it feel like to play with that idea? Because you’ve heard that both Pam and I have had to do a little bit of work to get to that place of setting aside our position, but I think that key that we talked about there at the end, getting to your need, because your need is real and valid, it’s just don’t jump to that solution, because the position is really that solution that you’re trying to push on someone else. And so, I think that’ll be interesting to just, how does it play with letting go of that one right way and settling into communicating about needs and hearing about other people’s needs?
PAM: And I think thinking about it as play, like, I’m going to play with this, because if we try to tell ourselves to do it different, it’s also telling ourselves we were wrong and bringing up that whole resistance to it. But it’s like, you know what? Let me explore it, play with it, and compare. I have lots of experience with handling it this way, let’s handle it a little bit differently and just see which actually feels better.
ANNA: Exactly. Okay, last question is to think of a recent conflict you were engaged in. What was the underlying need you were trying to meet with the prospective path or the path that you were arguing for? And can you think of another way you could have met that need? And might it have been met with less resistance?
So again, that peeling back to, am I communicating about my needs or am I communicating a solution that’s kind of bulldozing through other people? I think that’ll be a really interesting nuance to tease apart as we think about conflicts and more challenged conversation. This doesn’t have to be big, hard things. This can happen in a lot of places in our life, but, how’s that coming across to the people around us?
PAM: Yes. And I think here is another great place to just think about that productivity lens too and the urgency thing that we’ve talked about, too. I need to solve this fast. I need this need met immediately. We need to do this quick. So, it can be a bit hard at the beginning to just leave some space for these more creative, different ideas. This is one way it works. Boom. No, but hey, maybe there’s other path. And as you said, it might be met with less resistance from the other people who are involved.
ANNA: Right, and I think what you’ll find is that, it’s much easier for people to validate and understand and solve for our need than to validate our proposed solution that may be impinging upon them. So, I think what you’ll see is just the conversations are so different when we have that focus.
So, anyway, excited as always to talk about all the things. So, thank you so much for listening, and we will see you next time. Take care.