Being Right Can Be Wrong

I have a question: Have you ever sacrificed relationship for rights?  Many times when I am coaching people, I tell them that they can be completely right and completely wrong at the same time over the same issue!  How’s that?

That’s what happens when we sacrifice the relationship for the sake of being right!  In relationships as in society, there are times when we fight to be right without thinking about how it may affect others.

Demanding to have my rights sometimes comes from a sense of entitlement. This can come from deep within, a result of insecurity, stubbornness or even pride.

To understand this a little deeper we will look at the concept and contrasts of rights. There are different kinds of rights embedded in society. Most are good and intended to protect people who cannot protect themselves. An example of this is the right to free speech; everyone should have a voice.

However, sometimes we abuse the rights given to us. If the right to free speech is used to express hatred and oppression, then it is not a right; it is a weapon.

One way to ensure that rights are used correctly is to look at them as gifts. This will help us to use them wisely and carefully.  We may go from demanding our rights to taking responsibility for them. For example if we see the right to free speech as a gift, we will take responsibility to use it wisely and respectfully.

Let’s apply this to personal relationships.
In every relationship, we build in certain spoken and unspoken rights. When those rights are challenged, we may react negatively, as I did once. (Well, maybe more than once!)  I was in a leadership role with an organization and I was accountable to the CEO. An unspoken tension grew between us. In fact, my boss seemed quite agitated with me and was not treating me with the respect I felt I deserved. My thinking was: I’m the Executive Director and I have the right to lead the organization as I see fit!  Tension was clearly intensifying, and it soon came to a boiling point.

As we sat down to talk about it we both had a choice. We could work from the ‘rights position’ or a ‘relational position’.  Thankfully we chose a relational one. As the conversation went on we made some important discoveries that helped to clarify the issue. I thought that because I had been given the responsibility and authority to grow the organization, I should be trusted to do that without his interference. The CEO felt I was not keeping him as informed as I should have been. It seemed to me that he was having a difficult time letting go of the operation and fitting into his new role in giving oversight while I managed the day to day operations. The reality was probably somewhere in between.

We both could have demanded rights – I based on the mandate given to me, him by simply pulling rank. However, we made the decision that our relationship and our responsibility to create a great culture for the rest of the team were more important. We set a regular time to meet where we would share hearts, plot direction, and in so doing better understand each other and build a greater relationship. To this day he is one of my very best friends.

When we choose relationship over rights, we will actually receive far more enrichment than by just being right.
To summarize relationship versus rights:

1. Responsibility First – Ask: What is my responsibility in this relationship?  It’s easier to look at what you should get rather than what you should give. Before demanding a right, check to see if you have taken responsibility for your part.

2. Rights are Gifts – Look at the rights you have as gifts that you have been given, and treat them as such. Then respect will be given and received. When you do this you will rarely have to demand a right.

3. Use Authority Wisely – ‘Relational Authority’ is more effective than ‘Positional Authority’. Take time to create trust equity (see earlier article) so when you do need to ask for something you feel is your right, it will be better received.  When we respect authority, we tend to be given more authority.

Until next time, remember that ‘Relationship Matters’.