Couples Counselling Tip - Avoid Being Right.
This article offers suggestions on how to avoid the trap of "needing to be right".
The problem of "needing to be right"
In your relationship do you find yourselves arguing over ‘who is right’? It's easy to fall into the trap of one of you needing to be right. Arguments can become a battle over who will have the last word and who is going to be the vulnerable one.
Our need to be "right” easily leads to indignation, where we blame our partner for how angry we feel because our partner doesn’t understand how right or hurt we are and how wrong they are. Winning against your partner doesn’t make for a happy relationship.
The need to be "right“ may originate from our experiences of being shamed as a child for getting something wrong. We can be triggered into feeling that our sense of "being Ok and of value" is at stake if we lose the argument.
Here are some strategies to avoid the trap of, needing to be "right”.
Take time to soothe yourself
When you catch yourself 'needing to be right', take a moment to soothe yourself.
You can soothe yourself by paying attention to your body and then considering other possibilities to free up your thinking.
- Notice your breathing. Take some deep breaths to release tension. Feel the ground under your feet. Notice tension in your body.
- Remind yourself of the following: It's OK for you to disagree. Your worth isn't at stake. It's not about winning and losing. Arguments are not black or white. It's OK to have different viewpoints. We could be both right in our different ways.
Show you are listening
In arguments we long to be understood. Paradoxically the best way to help your partner understand you is to first show you understand them. Instead of arguing back, show what you have heard. Instead of a quick, "I understand what you are saying" say something like, "Let me see if I’m getting this..," followed by their main points.
If you take the time to understand your partner they will be more receptive to your viewpoint. Do ask questions to discover the meaning have they given to what's happened.
Express your feelings and needs
Underneath arguments over 'who is right?' are feelings and unmet needs. Directly expressing what we feel and need saves our partner having to guess. It also increases the chances of us getting more of what we want. Sometimes it's difficult to know how we feel. We might know we are angry and upset and need a moment to feel what's underneath our anger. We may be feeling unappreciated, disrespected, hopeless or blamed. Identifying feelings helps work out what we need. We may need reassurance, recognition or attention.
The rub is that most of us fear being vulnerable. We tend to be defensive and attack rather than dare express what we are feeling underneath our anger. Intimacy comes from risking showing what we feel.
It takes practice and time to learn how to sufficiently soothe yourself that you are able to respond rather than react. The first step is to recognise your trigger points. You can apply these strategies even after an argument to help make up. A significant step is to recognise that there is room for two viewpoints. You don't always need to agree. Understanding each other's feelings and needs is more important than sharing the same viewpoint.
If you are arguing without being able to resolve issues consider attending couples counselling to get support together as a couple. Couples counselling helps you develop the skills you need to listen to each other and express your feelings in a way that your partner can receive.
Related articles from our experts
- How to argue effectively
Greg Savva, Counselling in Twickenham & Whitton, Masters Degree, UKCP,21st March, 2018
- Boundaries and abusive or narcissistic relationships
Nicholas Opyrchal UKCP reg. MBACP20th March, 2018
- The unconscious mind in relationship
Monika Bassani MNCS19th March, 2018
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