"So what's the cost of being right? And what are you willing to pay? What are you actually willing to give up in order to 'be right?'"
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Welcome to Employing Differences, a conversation about exploring the collaborative space between individuals. I'm Karen Gimnig.Paul:
And I'm Paul Tevis.Karen:
Each episode, we start with a question and see where it takes us. This week's question is, "What will this cost?" And the key here, I think is "What will this cost the relationship?" Karen and I have both been talking about people that we've worked with, and been working with at various times, where they have a commitment to a particular point of view. I work with a lot for example of engineers, who are often committed to, "There is a right way to solve this problem. My job is to find it and people who disagree with me are wrong. I just need to convince them of the rightness of my position." And that's one way that this thing can manifest. And one of the questions that I often ask, particularly when I'm coaching folks one-on-one around this is, "So what's the cost of being right? And what are you willing to pay? What are you actually willing to give up in order to 'be right?'" And I put air quotes around that word, because it's, I think it's got its own thing. But I think one of the things that we run into a lot when we're working with other people is when we have a point of view, or we have an outcome that we want to achieve, we've got something that we want or need, we sometimes can get really caught up in pursuing it, and not think about what is that pursuit costing us individually and us the relationship. Yeah, and, and I think it fits in the "being right." And I think a few other themes I would give: It comes up in my community groups with, "Well, how do we enforce that? How do we make them do their share of the work?" And I like to tell them forcing someone to do something they wouldn't otherwise do, any kind of power-over tactic you might use will cost the relationship; it might be worth it. Depending on what the circumstances is, you know, what you want to do with that. So I think that there are many, many times where what we're really driving from is, am I right and right can be appropriate, respectful. Somewhere along the way in elementary school, we learned this "Be kind, be responsible, be respectful, be appropriate." Those are all now judgment words in our culture. So we use those words to describe, this is the right way or the appropriate way or whatever, this is the way I think it ought to be done. And then that's the filter as to whether it's worth fighting for, whether it's worth pulling that lever, whatever it is. If you're an HOA community that can be assessing a fee if you're the board. Or it can be arguing at length in a board meeting or a team meeting or something like that. And you know, people just get sick of listening to you. There can be all sorts of ways that that shows up. But I do think that really this "what will it cost?" stems from thinking about what I define as right or appropriate, and failing to think about what the impact of my behavior is likely to be.Paul:
There's two things that come up for me around that. One is that when this is something that we care deeply about, we get invested in it. This might be a commitment to sustainability, to equity, to fairness. Whatever it is that we really care about, when we aren't getting that, when it isn't happening, we just get hooked by it. We can become very involved in it. It stops becoming a matter of... Where it really trips over is when we go from it's no longer about me being right and it's about them being wrong. That's a whole other episode. But that's kind of the escalation that we go through. Where first it's just like, this is the thing that I want and then it becomes a thing I can't let go of it. We get emotionally involved in it as well. And that I think is when those those blinders kind of go on, where we stop being able to see what this is actually costing us personally. Because it's probably not just a cost to the group, it's probably sleepless nights, or us looking at our own behavior occasionally and going, "Oh, I really wish I wasn't like that. I really wish I wasn't doing that." The other thing that comes up for me about it is that when we get into that state, it's very easy to say, "Well, I had to, because because of what they did." Where we start to point the finger out there. "If only they would listen to me, if only they would..." And I think that when we get to that point is really the point where we need to be asking ourselves, "Well, wait, what is this cost here? What is this costing us?" And at that point, I'm going back to we talked about things that show up when we're growing up, like, I don't care who started it at that point, right? And when I'm working with a group that gets to that, it doesn't matter where it started. How are we going to move forward from here? And for me, when I get into those states, it's mostly about recognizing how can I get out of this situation? How can I recognize the cost that my behavior is having? Even if I can tell myself that that behavior is warranted by what other people are doing, how can I get out? And often my way out is by asking myself, what's the cost of what I've already done? What has it already cost me and us? And what cost am I still willing to pay and not willing to pay?Karen:
Yeah, I think I think that "I had to, I have to," is really big as a theme. And I want to give another way it shows up which is you said "I have to because of what that other person did." The other really common place I see it is "I have to because if I don't this thing will fail, that thing will fail, that won't be done well." So I can think of, for example, I have to keep this position of power that's not going well, for me. I have to keep this position of power as the treasurer, for example, because if I don't, the books won't be done correctly. Okay, so what is the cost, really? Because what happens there and in the examples you were giving, what's happening is we're focusing on only one need, and ignoring all the rest of our needs, right? So we have a need for finances that work and we'd like them to work as well as they could, for that example, that this is a good thing. But we also have a need to function well in the group perhaps to lay down like maybe I'm overworked, like I've got too much work, I have a need to lay something down, I have needs. And, and so a lot of what happens is we only look at one need, and we ignore the costs related to all of our other needs are the other needs in the group. And you know, to go after that particular example, what I will often say to that treasurer, "Is the community going to go bankrupt?" Like, right, like, yes, it would be good. But in order for your need to get into a less powerful position and frankly, the group's need for you to get into a less powerful position then you've held that the cost of that will be that some things will be done less well than you would have done them. And some of those things will matter, but the community will not come crashing down. So if you also have needs for strong relationships, for good consensus process, for collaborative teamwork, for anything in the relationship realm, this question of what will this cost and what are the alternate costs really comes into play and is important.Paul:
Yeah, what it really points out is where by pursuing one thing, we are acting against our own individual interests if not our collective interests in another arena. And it's just because we get hooked into it. It draws our focus, it draws our attention. This thing that that is in front of us it's firing up all of the emotional centers of our brain and so we stop because that whole idea of cost is a very cognitive it's very abstract, "Oh, yeah, I guess this other stuff is going on." As opposed to the very tangible, the very visceral thing that's right in front of us. So it totally makes sense that we don't think about it. The slowing down to stop and think about it is actually one of the things that gets us out of that place of just being driven by that particular deep-seated need. One of the things that I work with folks in terms of recognizing these kinds of patterns of behavior, because oftentimes when we are pursuing something at the cost of other things that's not a one time deal. It's a pattern for us. It's a thing that that shows up again and again and again. And there's an idea there about how there are untested and unchallenged assumptions under that. So what you were talking about with the case of the finances. It's like, yeah, absolutely, it's important for us to have our finances are in order. So what are you assuming will happen or would be true if you weren't the one doing it? So one assumption is, nobody else could do this. Another is, the cost of the errors that other people would make would make everything fall apart. And sometimes just even by exposing those, by bringing those out, by asking, "So what do you think would happen if you didn't do this thing that you have a pattern of doing?" People will start to kind of recognize, "Okay, so some of my concerns about this are a little ridiculous."But some they still can't let go of. So what I often work with people on that is kind of going like, well, how could you test some of those? What might you try? It's the whole idea of, if you have a phobia of dogs you don't start by letting 15 large breeds into a room with you. You start by looking at pictures of dogs, and hyperventilating a little bit, and then kind of going like, "Oh, okay, okay, that's, that's not so bad?" And being able to kind of work to the point where you have less of a reaction to that. Don't start by doing as we've talked about, many times before the biggest, scariest thing, start going like, Well, wait a minute, what if I tried something safe? How could I actually learn whether or not the thing that I'm worried about might happen? Because you might actually be right. there absolu ely are cases where the thing hat you were worried about appening, will happen if you do 't do it. Pay the cost in that s tuation. We're not saying t at your fears are not grounded. ut what we are saying is, I t ink we need to recognize when e get hooked by them, and what e are unconsciously doing as a r sult of being hooked by themKaren:
So I think what we're tracking here is what happens when we get attached to a right way, or inappropriate behavior or the way in which my way i the right thing and focus on how right we are or how appropriate we are in our behavior, and lose track of the impact of our behavior coming out of that. What we're sugges ing is to slow down and ask, o ay, if I do this thing, if I a vocate strongly if I put my foot down, if I stay in this role whatever is that thing that m ybe I shouldn't do if I do that thing, what is t e cost? And then weighing, a tually, okay, there's this ost and there's that cost and etting realistic about the cost of both possibilities, or perhaps many possibilities n many cases. Getting really cle r about all the potential cost , and then making the choice going forward, that will giv you the best of what you most ant, and what you would choose o have from all the costs and all the impacts.Paul:
And coming to that decision is one thing. Actually then carrying it out and living by that is a whole other thing, but that's a different episode. So I think that's gonna do it for us for today. Until next time, I'm Paul Tevis.Karen:
And I'm Karen Gimnig and his has been Employing ifferences.