Dealing with people who are 'Always Right'

Tuesday 10 March 2015

A bit of something different today.

As well as make-up reviews, I want this blog to be more broadly about ideas -  so today’s post is a departure. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, and if not, normal service will be resumed in the next post! 

My approach to any problem is to try and find as much information as possible to help me deal with the situation, and I hoped it might be helpful for others if I shared what I’ve found. 

Dealing with difficult people is a definite life skill that we are all going to have need of at some point or other. 

Lately, I’ve had particular need of this myself.

Are there people in your life you always have to be 'right' about everything?

There is no arguing with their viewpoints. 

They firmly believe that their decisions are always right and best. Anything that falls outside of this narrow path is automatically weird or wrong or worth less.

They appear to believe the choices they endorse are ‘worth more’ than other people's.

This, to me, is especially hard as I pride myself on being flexible and open minded.

I accept that there can be right and wrong on both sides of an argument, and I don’t have a problem with admitting I can be wrong. I’m okay with the idea of changing my mind if the other person has a convincing argument. 

>> How Do I Spot Them? Could I Be One?

Usually not hard to do! But it can be easy to make excuses for people if you're the forgiving type. Could this even be you? 

It's likely that you're this type of person if you recognise several of these statements:

_____ An insatiable need to be right which masks a deep fear of being wrong
_____ A high need to expect others to see it your way
_____ An inability to say, "I don't know." and "I was wrong."
_____ Feeling threatened when new ideas come from other people
_____ Fear of hearing new information that threatens your beliefs
_____ Fear of letting go; need to be in control of self at all times
_____ Preoccupation with winning approval from others
_____ The need to always be seen as tough, powerful and strong
_____ Pride at always being rational and logical
_____ Uncomfortable with expressing sensitive feelings
_____ Shame and fear of being vulnerable and insecure
_____ Fear and severe discomfort about having bad feelings 
_____ Believe that others who disagree with you are wrong and should "just get over it"

>> How Do I Deal With It Nicely?

Sometimes, even if you love them, this behaviour can be a massive energy drain. Every second statement is either something that comes across as confrontational or as judgemental. 

But what if you can’t avoid spending time with these people?

You come away from interactions with them feeling exhausted at holding your feelings in and resisting the urge to roll your eyes. 

The key is learning why they behave this way, and what there is you can do to make them have less of an impact on how you feel. 

They are not going to change - mainly because they do not recognise an issue with how they are, and have built an ecosystem around them that constantly reaffirms their view.

If you find yourself among similar people, here’s what I’ve found:

>> Recognise their fear

It might seem like the furthest thing away from it, but the major driver of this behaviour is that person’s fear. 

They are terrified of feeling vulnerable, emotional and out of control. 

They have a low tolerance for feelings of emotional pain or shame and they use always being right as a guard against having to feel that way. 

I’ve never heard any of these people admit they were wrong, in years of knowing them. They feel very threatened by other points of view and different ways of doing things. 

Freud called this dynamic "omnipotence of thought." He considered it a psychological defence to avoid inner anxiety and a sense of becoming fragmented when there is disagreement. 

Their behaviour became a lot less offensive to me once I considered it from this angle – as a weakness. 

I also happen to know a little bit about events in the past that have made these people who they are and that explain why they behave how they do, even though it definitely doesn’t excuse it. 

That takes the sting of annoyance a little out of their judgemental pronouncements, which speak a lot more about them than the people they target.

>> Its not about you

Even though these people have never targeted me to my face, I often feel backed into a corner just by their sheer need to dominate. 

The fact that they have an extremely narrow idea of the ‘right’ thing makes me feel that my choices or ideas are somehow wrong. 

Especially because I’m open minded, my default position is to think that I may be wrong, and this causes self-doubt that makes me dread my interactions with them. 

I’m normally fairly confident but when other people are really bombastic with their opinions, it can make me worry. 

The best way out of this is to take a step back and realise that its absolutely not about me. 

Their need to constantly be right is their own weakness, not mine. By allowing myself to feel threatened  and undermined, I am giving them entirely too much power.

 I must train my default reaction from annoyance to understanding. “They’re not saying they are better than others: they are saying they need to FEEL better than others. I am glad I don’t feel the need to be better than others, which allows me to appreciate our differences” is a good start. 

Its difficult to resent someone that actually needs to be supported.

>> Challenge the behaviour in a nice way

I often clam up when faced with this group of people all making a pronouncement on something and that can make me feel far worse. 

For example, when I last encountered them, the topic soon turned to how ‘weird’ someone we both know is. I’ve heard them make the same judgement a million times about other people who didn’t slot in with their viewpoint. 

These people are automatically difficult, or wrong, or odd. This makes me feel I must be those things too, because I don’t agree with them either. 

So I silently seethe and feel bad about myself in their company. The thing to do is really to speak up, for my own sanity.ł

But the key is not to phrase my opinions in a confrontational way (however much I want to!).

 I need to learn to say something like: “Really? I don’t find XXX weird at all. Perhaps they are just trying to do xxxxx. Have you thought of it that way?”  

That immediately challenges and points out to them that their own viewpoints are not the only ones in the world and that it is okay for other people to think and feel differently to them, but its not confrontational either. 

If I speak up, I’m going to feel much better than letting them ‘get away’ with judging everyone else all the time. 

But I’m not going to create negative feelings but setting it up as an argument, however annoyed I get.

>> Pour honey on it

What does someone who is scared want? Reassurance. 

So providing this can help to neutralise their bad behaviour. 

It feels like anathema when someone is annoying you and behaving as if they are superior, but once you recognise the driver of fear, it becomes easier to want to help. 

By giving them a little praise and support, sometimes that can reduce their need to ‘win’ every situation. 

So if there is a positive in what they are doing, I will try my best to point it out – and the warm glow that comes from being kind will help to take away some of the anger and frustration as well. 

But the tip is not to be false with it either – I’m not going to praise them if I don’t see something positive.  

We often praise people to others but not to their face, so they may not realise we have a positive impression of them. 

If they realise we like and even admire them, they might not feel so threatened and feel like they have to ‘prove’ they are better somehow. 

Its certainly worth a try, and responding positively always works better than becoming defensive and angry – which helps no-one.

>> It's okay to duck out sometimes

No ones going to pretend that being the bigger person isn’t an effort. Isn’t exhausting and challenging and sometimes futile. 

So be kind to yourself and just duck out sometimes.

 Make an excuse not to interact. I can’t avoid seeing these people entirely, but I do have every right to conserve my energies, and if I feel I’ve had a lot of them lately, sometimes you just have to be kind to yourself and exit the situation. 

There’s only so much patience and understanding to go around, after all. 

And if I’m in a place myself where I know I’m not feeling especially strong, and probably won’t deal well with them, then that’s even more reason to give myself permission not to be there. 

Its okay to flake out sometimes, as long as its not every time.

>> Happily Ever After?

One major truth in life is that you absolutely cannot change other people. 

They can only change themselves, and the problem with people who think they are always right is that, why would they change? After all, they're right! At least in their own minds. 

So you can only change how you react and deal with it. 

I hope this post has been some use to you if you have difficult people to deal with in your life- and who doesn't? 

If you have any top tips for managing behaviour like this in others, please share it in the comments. We can overcome this together! 

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