With political debates on every channel (often twice in one week), candidates from both parties slinging mud at one another, and many of us joining right in through social media, I am reminded of one of the most important lessons I learned from Dr. Wayne Dyer: “It is better to be kind than right.”
He was right (and also kind). Yet, even though I recite this simple reminder internally each day, it’s still so hard to put the teaching into regular practice.
This seemingly easy advice can be directed to every part of our lives, not just politics. Arguments with our significant others, heated discussions with our children and animated conversations with our friends can all be easily calmed by a gentle nudge in our heads to be kind instead of right.
Being right all the time takes so much energy. I know, because I feel I’m right most of the time. I read voraciously, watch oodles of documentaries, research any subject on which I have questions – and yet, I still find myself knowing a lot less than I thought I knew about a lot of things.
What I do know is that Wayne Dyer wasn’t speaking about being smarter than others or more educated than our friends and family. Being kind rather than right – or at least being kind as well as right – allows important people in our lives to walk away from disagreements with dignity and positive energy.
Simply telling someone “you may be right” about a political issue or a career decision or any important personal matter immediately diffuses the argument and changes the tone. When you tell another they may be right before stating your own point, you can feel negative energy slip away. Even the person who offers that small kindness can feel a calming effect.
All most of us really want from these challenging interactions is to feel we’re actually being heard; not just humored by a nodding head. We want to believe someone is actually listening to our opinions, not just formulating their own rebuttals.
I remember another good suggestion from a family therapist who dropped by my office back when I worked in healthcare. I was preparing for a meeting with a patient’s family and knew they had many concerns about the day-to-day care of their loved one. My associate advised me to “take an extra breath” before I offered the automatic response that often came so quickly to my lips, and that doing so would diminish the chance of getting into an uncomfortable exchange. She was right. (And, of course, also kind).
None of us look forward to confrontation every time we open our mouths. I know this because my husband mentions it to me during many of our “exciting discussions” on many interesting topics. Evidently, I still haven’t mastered the whole kind-over-right maneuver quite yet either.
But I keep repeating the mantra “It’s better to be kind than right” several times during my waking hours and often as I drift off to sleep. My suggestion is that you try to do the same – and let me know how being kind rather than right works out for you.