Who’s Wrong, Who’s Right, and Does It Matter?

I never ask for more than I deserve
You know it’s the truth
You seem to think you’re God’s gift to this earth
I’m tellin’ you, no way

You ought to be thankful for the little things,
but little things are all you seem to give
You’re always putting off what we can do today
Soap opera says, you’ve got one life to live
Who’s right, who’s wrong?

— Janet Jackson, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”

Couple standing in park
Credit: Blend Images

Often times, heated, emotional arguments can dissolve or lose steam a lot faster if we can just get out of the mentality that someone has to be right, and someone has to be wrong; that there is a winner and a loser.

If you live in the Eastern hemisphere and I live in the U.S., and we answer the question, “Is it day or night?” We will probably have different answers but we’ll both be right.  A lot of things just depend on your perspective.

Couples could learn a lot from one another if they would take this concept to heart. Often, what you express verbally and what the other person hears are two different things. Instead of going into a discussion feeling like all that matters is that you are heard, what if you calmly got your point across, let the other person mirror your issue, then listened to their side?

“I” statements also help take the edge of being defensive and reduces potential feelings of resentment down the line. “I” statements are especially effective when you offer a solution or recommendation with it. Consider both of these scenarios:

Option A:

“John!!! Why can’t you ever throw out the milk carton when you finish it?!! It’s such a pain! You’re so damn selfish! I need it for my __________. And you could’ve got some more milk when you went to the store yesterday too… “

Dude is not in the negotiating mood at this point regardless of the problem–chances are he is hiding out or has tuned you out (if not both).

Option B:

“Babe, I feel unappreciated when I come into the kitchen and find a mess after you’ve ________________.” I would feel so much better if you would clean up after yourself and not leave the cabinets open / empty milk carton / XYZ.”  And then a direct request: “Can you help me with this?” or similar.

This is a simplified example, and may not work 100% of the time, but if things are not too far beyond repair in the relationship, you should be able to work out an agreement from there. Choose your battles wisely and make sure you can live with the outcome.

Is your way the only way? Or can you reach a common ground?

Does it matter who’s “right,” or if you lose?

Thanks to Gerald Griffith, who contributed to this post.

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