Following the many discussions I’ve had with my wife over the years, where just like any other good couple we exasperated in trying to prove to one another that we were right once again, I actually began to wonder. I wondered how it was possible for her to claim to be right when I knew for sure and with good reason that I was right myself.
This is when I realized that being right related to our individual perceptions of the situation and that even if one was right it didn’t automatically mean that the other was wrong by default. Unlike the concept where two plus two always maintain the same right answer and equal four, this concept “thinking we are right” is subjective and multiple rights can coexist. It’s this latter concept that I would like to explore further in this article.
Hence, I consider that “thinking we are right” is a resulting logic for anyone who has made the effort to think and reflect upon any given subject. This is why I often say that “in order to think we are right, we must first think”. Some seem to have strong opinions on anything and everything, without having genuinely thought about any of them. These individuals don’t normally say “they think they are right”, they rather affirm “being right”. It’s actually this last realization, perhaps slightly negligible to some, yet key to my reasoning, that made me change the title of the current article. As some of my regular readers might remember, when I was raising suspense about the following article, it was intended to be entitled: “I’m always right and so are you”.
So, from the beginning of time, Man has had a strong thirst for understanding and it remains imperative for him to find answers to his questions. In the absence of logical or tangible explanations like those supported by scientific notions for instance, he turns to religion, mythology and even charlatanism. If all else fails, he can even rely on answers derived solely from his personal beliefs and convictions, so long as they bring him peace of mind and serenity.
Having a reflected and informed opinion means daring to claim to be right, but also respecting and appreciating the fact that others have the right to “believe they are right” as well. This element of respect for the opinions of others is of paramount importance because when disregarded, it can turn anyone irritating or even threatening. There are “dictatorial” types of people in all spheres of our society, be it at work, with family or in public life. And, although we must recognize that even their views could be reflected, we certainly can’t describe them as respectful. We must therefore beware of such unilateral thinkers that could ultimately be capable of atrocities which they would sanction with ease on behalf of their “reasons”.
In extremis, think of all the modern dictators who pepper the headlines or all of the extremist terrorists that continue to indulge in human sacrifice in the name of their beliefs. So there are these people who are convinced of being right, that have a single view of the world and that want to impose it on others. “I’m right, the police is on my side, the army’s on my side, so for your own good, I will send the police on you, I will deport you, I will re-educate you, excommunicate you, torture you, but it’s for your own good that I do it, because I’m right“.1
So from the moment that we understand and more importantly that we accept that it is possible, indeed even probable, that others may think they are right, we’re left with listening and trying to appreciate and understand the perspective of others. And since listening does not necessarily intend adopting, no one should feel intimidated or diminished by such an exercise. Allowing ourselves to think that we are right also allows us to question ourselves perpetually and therefore fosters evolving thinking. This is why when we meet someone with whom we have a meaningful exchange on a particular topic or when we read a book that stimulates reflection, and to the extent where we allow ourselves to be open to the message in question, it is possible that even if initially we had strongly held beliefs we decide to adopt in whole or in part, the views presented to us. The beauty in all this is that following our exchange, or our reading, we continue to believe that we are right despite the fact that our original views might have been modified. This enrichment of our thinking allows us to maintain a mental balance when seeking answers to our deserving questions.
One must therefore acknowledge that our “reason” is constantly evolving and being shaped by the individuals that touch us, our interactions, and our experiences. One must therefore acknowledge that our “reason” is constantly evolving and being shaped by the individuals that touch us, our interactions, and our experiences.
This is why Boris Cyrulnik2, despite all his years of practice answered without embarrassment: “… yeah, these 40 years of practice allowed me to arrive to this conclusion, obviously provisional… Therefore, it’s likely to change again!”3
So it is not pretentious to think we are right. No one should feel guilty about it regardless of what some of your audience might be saying. On the contrary, we should even rejoice in it, because thinking we might be right, involves thinking, an opportunity that is not always seized by all. From the moment that we accept that our reason can evolve, it’s important to consider learning to be attentive to others. Consequently, when it comes to a discussion what’s important is not to determine which of the two is more right (since the determination itself can be subjective anyway), but rather to rejoice in having had the benefit of a healthy and respectful exchange. It’s the only way for anyone to grow and to evolve their thinking. Everything resides in the way the exchange occurs, in the manner in which we greet the other person’s perspective and in the way we emphasize our own point of view. This realization alone is bound to make you a better communicator and to improve all of your relationships, be they work, family, or love related.
Being proud of my opinions, knowing that in order to come up with them I first had to give them serious thought, I will continue to share with you “my reason” over the upcoming articles. You may stop feeling anxious, if that is the case, at the idea of believing that you could also be right. Assert yourselves and emphasize your points of view… respectfully, of course! Thereby, I invite you to comment my articles so that my reason may evolve and that I may continue to “think that I’m right” while my reflection keeps getting nourished from your comments.
I leave you with this beautiful quote from Henry Ford:
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”
- Excerpt from the interview given by Boris Cyrulnik to Stephan Bureau during the TV series « Contact, l’encyclopédie de la création »
- A leading expert in neuropsychiatry, known for his research in the field of resilience.
- Extrait de l’entrevue accordée par Boris Cyrulnik à Stephan Bureau dans le cadre de la série télé « Contact, l’encyclopédie de la création »