Maybe I’m Wrong . . . The Power of Finding Fault with Yourself

“You’re wrong!”

How does that make you feel when someone says that to you, especially in an argument?

What’s the natural comeback?

“No!  You’re wrong!”

Where does the argument go from there?

Usually, through the power of reciprocity (tit-for-tat), the argument escalates.  We naturally push back.  It’s human nature.

Reciprocity can also work in-reverse–the next time you are in an argument and feel the urge to fight back, practice holding your tongue for a moment and reflecting on your own contribution to the problem, however small that contribution may be.

The instant you see some contribution you made to a conflict, your anger softens–maybe just a bit, but enough that you might be able to acknowledge some merit on the other’s side.  You can still believe you are right and the other person is wrong, but if you can move to believing that you are mostly right, and your opponent is mostly wrong, you have the basis for an effective and nonhumiliating apology.  You can take a small piece of the disagreement and say, “I should not have done X, and I can see why you felt Y.” Then, by the power of reciprocity, the other person will likely feel a strong urge to say, “Yes, I was really upset by X.  But I guess I shouldn’t have done P, so I can see why you felt Q.”  –Jonathan Haidt The Happiness Hypothesis

Try turning reciprocity upside down in your next argument and see for yourself the power of finding fault with yourself.


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

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