Wrong to Be Right?

 

First time posting here, please be gentle.

During the holidays, I heard tales of two broken friendships. I am talking about the kind of friendships so long and so close that one could think of the friends as family. In one case, the broken friendship involves literal family, as school friends had married siblings, etc. My teen children listened to these stories avidly, wondering how adults could have this kind of drama. (Whoa, she really left your What’s App group?) I felt the need to revisit the story with them privately and talk about how to avoid such a painful experience.

To be clear, no great moral issue was at stake in either case. There was no affair, no violence, no treachery, no lies. One incident was sparked by a typical, insignificant dispute between their respective children and then how the parents had handled it. A tiny conflict that as a teacher and parent I have dealt with countless times. It should not have ruined a 30-year friendship. The other involved an innocent prank that was a common and accepted practice among the friend group but happened to fall on a bad day. However, once the disagreements were had, feelings were hurt. When the hurt parties expressed this, the others in each case responded that they were RIGHT, and that the hurt feelings were exaggerated. Escalation and ad hominems ensued. Friendship broken.

With my teens, our conclusion was that perhaps one party was more right than the other, but had that person not insisted on the rightness of the stance, but instead focused on the sincerely hurt feelings of the other party, the break in the friendship could have been avoided. The “mostly right” parties could have apologized for hurting feelings and left it that.

But now I am wondering about that lesson that my children are mulling over. In both cases, one party was mostly right, at least at the beginning! Why should they give in? Would it be worth preserving a multi-decade friendship? Or was it already too late, the fault of the over-sensitive friends? And I wonder what my own hesitation on how to resolve such conflict can imply for us as a society.

When is it wrong to insist on being right? Where do we draw the line between being a compliant sheep, a pushover, and being argumentative, unyielding. Will our 230-plus-year Republic break apart over something insignificant like these 30-year friendships?

This is why I always wear a mask when asked. I think it’s close to pointless, but is it worth the offense? But am I wrong? Is it a slippery slope?

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  1. TGA Coolidge
    TGA
    @TGA

    Welcome aboard.  I’ve only recently re-upped with Ricochet after a rather lengthy hiatus.

    I suppose I come down mostly on valuing the friendship.  Obviously each situation would need to be evaluated on its own, but a 30 year friendship is not something to destroy over a squabble between the friends’ children.  I have had my relationships with my siblings destroyed over their insistence on “being right” and in their eyes I quickly descended into the status of being evil.  Our family situation did involve some serious moral/abuse issues, but I did not even know about the situations until years afterward.  I have not spoken with either of them in 18 years (their choice, not mine) and it remains a daily pain in my heart. 

    My suggestion for your situation, then, is to hammer home the value of friendships with your kids.  They are not something you just throw in the trash at the first sign of trouble.  All of us could sharpen our conflict resolution skills.

    • #1
  2. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    If the people who thought they were “wronged” have a history of being oversensitive, perhaps it was just “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” finally, after 30 years.  I tend not to form friendships with such people to start with.

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    BretonHoosier: When is it wrong to insist on being right?

    If you’re looking for a formula, I don’t think it will work.  

    Well, how about this: It’s always wrong. You have to figure out which wrong you’re going to participate in.  Maybe it’s good to also focus on the good thing to do. Not the right thing, but the good thing.  

    • #3
  4. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BretonHoosier: When is it wrong to insist on being right?

    If you’re looking for a formula, I don’t think it will work.

    Well, how about this: It’s always wrong. You have to figure out which wrong you’re going to participate in. Maybe it’s good to also focus on the good thing to do. Not the right thing, but the good thing.

    What if the condition is something like “If you don’t vote for Joe Biden we can’t be friends any more?”

    • #4
  5. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    There’s often more to it.  My best advice is don’t take my advice, because no matter how much of the story you tell me, I haven’t lived your life.  No matter how much you think you know, you haven’t lived their lives.  You can discuss what you might do based on what you know, but your solution will be leaving out the bulk of the input.

    If history is a decent teacher, sooner or later, it is determined we are all wrong, so there isn’t much reason to ever stand firm on how right we are.

    Welcome

    • #5
  6. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    I used to listen to Dennis Prager a lot and I think it was he, when listening to a husband/wife disagreement, who used to say “do you want to be right or do you want to be loved?”  Well you can’t give in all the time – actually I tend to think I’m always right. But it’s entirely up to you as to how important the relationship is. I give in a lot in marital spats, not so much when friends or siblings are being obnoxious.

    • #6
  7. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BretonHoosier: When is it wrong to insist on being right?

    If you’re looking for a formula, I don’t think it will work.

    Well, how about this: It’s always wrong. You have to figure out which wrong you’re going to participate in. Maybe it’s good to also focus on the good thing to do. Not the right thing, but the good thing.

    What if the condition is something like “If you don’t vote for Joe Biden we can’t be friends any more?”

    What does that change?

    • #7
  8. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    A couple of helps I’ve learned over the years, from different sources: 

    1.) In a conflict, you can own the percentage of the problem that belongs to you, even if you are not responsible for the whole issue. So you can embrace your five or ten percent contribution to the problem, say you’re wrong, apologize for that part, without making the mistake of owning what is the other person’s fault. 

    2.) When we argue with someone, even when we feel that we are making necessary, legitimate points, it is often not only fruitless, but focuses the energy on you and on an argument. It’s helpful at times to let the other person digest the situation and sort through his own issues. So it can be productive to listen to the person with the grievance, and before we utter the defense welling up in our heart, say something like, “So what you’re saying is . . .” And then restate his words back to him. Not only does this help the other person feel more heard (and perhaps even increase your listening skills a smidgeon), it keeps your pulse from quickening and your heart from racing. You have kept the situation in his court, so now he’s gotten the benefit of airing his grievance without the listener taking the burden upon himself and creating more problems.  In the process, he/she gets to have the space to focus on the situation and figure out how to think about it on his own, without noise from a listener in a defensive posture. 

    The “what you’re saying” phrase can be especially helpful with people who come at you making absurd or exaggerated claims. You can shut down your instinct to try to set them straight, and just let them hear their own words restated to them. This gives them room to process their destructive approach to problem-solving. 

    • #8
  9. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BretonHoosier: When is it wrong to insist on being right?

    If you’re looking for a formula, I don’t think it will work.

    Well, how about this: It’s always wrong. You have to figure out which wrong you’re going to participate in. Maybe it’s good to also focus on the good thing to do. Not the right thing, but the good thing.

    What if the condition is something like “If you don’t vote for Joe Biden we can’t be friends any more?”

    What does that change?

    Wouldn’t the “good” thing require you to vote for Creepy Joe, to preserve the friendship, and we end up in the situation we have now?

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BretonHoosier: When is it wrong to insist on being right?

    If you’re looking for a formula, I don’t think it will work.

    Well, how about this: It’s always wrong. You have to figure out which wrong you’re going to participate in. Maybe it’s good to also focus on the good thing to do. Not the right thing, but the good thing.

    What if the condition is something like “If you don’t vote for Joe Biden we can’t be friends any more?”

    What does that change?

    Wouldn’t the “good” thing require you to vote for Creepy Joe, to preserve the friendship, and we end up in the situation we have now?

    I have no way of knowing that.  

    • #10
  11. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BretonHoosier: When is it wrong to insist on being right?

    If you’re looking for a formula, I don’t think it will work.

    Well, how about this: It’s always wrong. You have to figure out which wrong you’re going to participate in. Maybe it’s good to also focus on the good thing to do. Not the right thing, but the good thing.

    What if the condition is something like “If you don’t vote for Joe Biden we can’t be friends any more?”

    What does that change?

    Wouldn’t the “good” thing require you to vote for Creepy Joe, to preserve the friendship, and we end up in the situation we have now?

    I have no way of knowing that.

    If you’re saying it’s unknowable, why even bring it up?

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BretonHoosier: When is it wrong to insist on being right?

    If you’re looking for a formula, I don’t think it will work.

    Well, how about this: It’s always wrong. You have to figure out which wrong you’re going to participate in. Maybe it’s good to also focus on the good thing to do. Not the right thing, but the good thing.

    What if the condition is something like “If you don’t vote for Joe Biden we can’t be friends any more?”

    What does that change?

    Wouldn’t the “good” thing require you to vote for Creepy Joe, to preserve the friendship, and we end up in the situation we have now?

    I have no way of knowing that.

    If you’re saying it’s unknowable, why even bring it up?

    Why bring what up?  

    • #12
  13. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Sometimes there is nothing to say other than, “I don’t see why it’s that important to you, but if it is, take care and have a good life.”

    Then, get on with your life. 

    • #13
  14. TGA Coolidge
    TGA
    @TGA

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BretonHoosier: When is it wrong to insist on being right?

    If you’re looking for a formula, I don’t think it will work.

    Well, how about this: It’s always wrong. You have to figure out which wrong you’re going to participate in. Maybe it’s good to also focus on the good thing to do. Not the right thing, but the good thing.

    What if the condition is something like “If you don’t vote for Joe Biden we can’t be friends any more?”

    What does that change?

    Wouldn’t the “good” thing require you to vote for Creepy Joe, to preserve the friendship, and we end up in the situation we have now?

    I have no way of knowing that.

    If you’re saying it’s unknowable, why even bring it up?

    Why bring what up?

    If I may – who I vote for is nobody else’s business.  Most people who know me well enough could probably guess, but it’s not something I share with anyone.  Well, I supposed I tell my wife, but again, she knows me well enough.  So apologies, but “What if the condition is something like “If you don’t vote for Joe Biden we can’t be friends any more?”” is a strawman.

    • #14
  15. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    I used to listen to Dennis Prager a lot and I think it was he, when listening to a husband/wife disagreement, who used to say “do you want to be right or do you want to be loved?” Well you can’t give in all the time – actually I tend to think I’m always right. But it’s entirely up to you as to how important the relationship is. I give in a lot in marital spats, not so much when friends or siblings are being obnoxious.

    In a spousal disagreement, I think it’s okay for me to occasionally say that “we can agree to disagree.”  It is not good for either of us to agree for the sake of peace (not that that’s what you’re doing, Justme). But I can retain my view respectfully without allowing my perspective to be subsumed under someone else’s, as for either of us, when that happens, our view will come exploding to the surface somewhere else, like a submerged beach ball.

    I have also been more conscious of allowing both of us to be right, in neutral areas.  I have been vocal about our two clashing philosophies on keeping house not being wrong in themselves. But we both need to be considerate of the other in how we carry them out.

    • #15
  16. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Django (View Comment):

    Sometimes there is nothing to say other than, “I don’t see why it’s that important to you, but if it is, take care and have a good life.”

    Then, get on with your life.

    Ouch. 

    • #16
  17. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):

    There’s often more to it. My best advice is don’t take my advice, because no matter how much of the story you tell me, I haven’t lived your life. No matter how much you think you know, you haven’t lived their lives. You can discuss what you might do based on what you know, but your solution will be leaving out the bulk of the input.

    If history is a decent teacher, sooner or later, it is determined we are all wrong, so there isn’t much reason to ever stand firm on how right we are.

    Welcome

    I’ve been wrong so many times when I thought I was absolutely right that I try not to be certain anymore.

    • #17
  18. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    BretonHoosier: This is why I always wear a mask when asked. I think it’s close to pointless, but is it worth the offense? But am I wrong? Is it a slippery slope ? 

    All of the rights we have are tied to property rights and an important part of property rights is the right to enjoy occupying the property within reason.  I don’t have the right to enjoy killing people for instance.  I do have the right to be stupid or insane or do stupid or insane things on my property and I have the right to ask other people to do them while they are on my property and ask them to leave my property whenever I deem for whatever reason.  I might be stretching it slightly, though I don’t think so when I say we have the right to enjoy our property, we do not have the right to enjoy someone else’s property without their permission.  

    Refusing to wear a mask when asked to by the owner of a property we intend to enter is assuming a right we do not have and it has nothing to do with whether or not a mask is effective.  The potential damage to property rights is the slippery slope.

     

    • #18
  19. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    This is why I always wear a mask when asked. I think it’s close to pointless, but is it worth the offense? 

    If we constantly succumb to illogical arguments just to keep the peace and to not “offend” someone, we might as well just put on a muzzle over that face mask and give up all independent thought.    

    • #19
  20. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    A skill I’ve had to learn over a lifetime of working with extended family, immediate family, and fellow members of organizations is how to depersonalize every discussion. The issue has to be put out on an imaginary whiteboard for all to see and discuss as respected equals. 

    No person in a discussion should feel rejected or disliked. Whenever a discussion brushes up against what might be construed as personal, defenses go up, emotions heat up, and damage ensues. 

    • #20
  21. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):

    There’s often more to it. My best advice is don’t take my advice, because no matter how much of the story you tell me, I haven’t lived your life. No matter how much you think you know, you haven’t lived their lives. You can discuss what you might do based on what you know, but your solution will be leaving out the bulk of the input.

    If history is a decent teacher, sooner or later, it is determined we are all wrong, so there isn’t much reason to ever stand firm on how right we are.

    Welcome

    I’ve been wrong so many times when I thought I was absolutely right that I try not to be certain anymore.

    I just wish I could always remember how incredibly and unfathomably ignorant I am. 

    • #21
  22. She Member
    She
    @She

    kedavis (View Comment):
    What if the condition is something like “If you don’t vote for Joe Biden we can’t be friends any more?”

    Ah.  The technique that the late Mr. She used to describe as:  “If you loved me you would [or would not]…”  Fact of the matter is that when one party in a relationship starts treating the other as a participant in some mythical Grail Quest, and setting a series of challenges that must be overcome or submitted to in order to sustain a relationship or to redeem the other’s affections, the party’s over.  Move on.

    Welcome to Ricochet @bretonhoosier.  Great first post, and some provocative questions.

    Another truism (which, at least in my experience) is actually true is that “while it takes two people to keep a friendship or a relationship in good repair, it only takes one of them to end it.” IMHO, that happens when one of the parties–whether for legitimate or invented reasons, loses trust in the other, stops acting in good faith, and decides that nothing the other person says is worth listening to, let along deserving of serious consideration.  As with a dispute, no matter how major or minor, in which one person, sincerely valuing the friendship says something truthful like, “I’m sorry if what I said hurt your feelings.  I can see how it might have.  I didn’t intend to hurt you,” and the other person says something like, “I know you did it on purpose.  Why are you apologizing for something you did on purpose?”  Or even just “why are you apologizing for something you didn’t do on purpose?”  Attempting to respond, once one of the parties has started down that road, simply wrong-foots the first party even more, and there’s no salvaging the relationship, no matter how close it was, or how frustrating it is to let it go.  One of the parties is already over it.

    The trick, I suppose, is to stop things escalating to that level.  Sometimes, though, one or the other, or even both, of the parties just want to have a fight.  It’s possible there is other stuff happening that’s provoked the straw that broke the camel’s back; perhaps one or the other is looking for an excuse to end the relationship, even if abruptly and meanly; perhaps some of it is projection; and perhaps some of it is an overabundance of ego, or a lack of perception, perspective, balance, and even–yes–self-esteem.  Hard to know.  That’s why I do my best to stay out of others’ disputes, and am reluctant to weigh in on, or referee, even (or perhaps especially) when I’m asked to.

    All I can do on my own account is be myself, be kind, be trustworthy, and tell the truth.  I’m not always right, and I’ve said so many times.  Sometimes, I believe I’m right, but the issue’s not one that’s worth losing a friend over (unless the friend is on a trip like the one described above). I’ll go a long way to keep a friendship on the “agree to disagree” principle that we don’t always have to think alike.  I try to believe the best of my friends, and I’m not given to inventing reasons to distrust them when they haven’t given me a reason to.  If a friend does proves himself untrustworthy, though, (probably more important to me than the “wrong/right” thing), that’s the end of it.

    • #22
  23. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Sometimes adults can be more ridiculous than children. The kids usually get over it after a while and go back to being friends. No answers here. I have experienced a few instances of this “adult” anger in my life recently and been the target of some of it. What bothers me most is when others don’t say what is wrong and even open up the chance to make amends. 

    Great first post.

    • #23
  24. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    JoelB (View Comment):

    Sometimes adults can be more ridiculous than children. The kids usually get over it after a while and go back to being friends. No answers here. I have experienced a few instances of this “adult” anger in my life recently and been the target of some of it. What bothers me most is when others don’t say what is wrong and even open up the chance to make amends.

    Great first post.

    Good point. One of the funniest things I heard about was a major corporation that back around 2010 instituted the VESP. That stood for “Voluntary Executive Severance Program”, IIRC, and it was quite generous. I guess the corporation Big Dogs felt they were a top-heavy company. One of the top executives took the severance because he was offended that the CEO didn’t call and tell him that no one wanted him to accept. 

    • #24
  25. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    A friend of mine didn’t back me up when kids lies* were told about me at work.  He apologized for it much later. I told him he still couldn’t be my friend.

    A woman who was a good friend and a social leader in my group of friends had been treasurer of a club we were all in and it was perennially short of funds.  I found out that she had been embezzling for ten years.  Even though nothing bad happened directly between us, she is no longer a friend.

    Sometimes being on the wrong side is unforgivable.

    *Stupid iPhone.

    • #25
  26. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Skyler (View Comment):
    A woman who was a good friend and a social leader in my group of friends had been treasurer of a club we were all in and it was perennially short of funds.  I found out that she had been embezzling for ten years.  Even though nothing bad happened directly between us, she is no longer a friend.

    I had a friend who did a great wrong (not to me).  I’d visit him in prison.

    He was paying the price, and there is such a thing as redemption.

    • #26
  27. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    BretonHoosier: One incident was sparked by a typical, insignificant dispute between their respective children and then how the parents had handled it. A tiny conflict that as a teacher and parent I have dealt with countless times …

    The other involved an innocent prank that was a common and accepted practice among the friend group but happened to fall on a bad day.

    First of all, welcome to Ricochet and congrats on managing to interest several members of the community with a provocative narrative. Well done!

    (That’s what one does when giving notes to a writer, find something nice to say first.)

    You might find the audience would be even more engaged, if you’d tell us exactly what the friggin’ fights were about! You may be too young to get this reference, but where’s the beef?

    Just saying, (1) I haven’t had a front row seat to a real inter-family fight of major proportions in decades, so curious for a more fully detailed account; and (2) what “common and accepted practice” among friends? Practices are changing fast, and what “accepted practices” got accepted is sometimes an interesting conversation unto itself.

    In these times of pandemic and rapidly changing modes of communication, it’s not surprising that things can escalate. What makes the destruction surprising and therefore interesting in scenic terms, can be how exactly the butterfly flapped its wings to set off the hurricane.

    Well you got me engaged in your thread, so well done, and this time I mean it.

     

     

    • #27
  28. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Love is easier to restore than trust.  

    Loathing is nearly impossible to remedy. 

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I had a blow-out of sorts on New Years’ Eve day. Without sharing the awful details, I can say that I learned a lot:

    1. Be aware that I’m receiving what looks like an innocent question, but can lead to unacceptable answers (to them).
    2. Know that when certain topics come up, I can get caught up in a non-productive discussion, and I need to end that conversation.
    3. Realize that my communication skills disappear when I am passionate about a topic that has a different meaning to the other persons.
    4. Remember that I’m risking the relationship if I pursue the discussion.

    I’m about to write an email that says something like this:

    I am sorry for my part in the disruption and hurt feelings, and I hope you will forgive me.

    I don’t know if the qualifier (“my part”) is a cop-out, but at least my apology is genuine. We’ll see what happens.

    • #29
  30. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    BretonHoosier: This is why I always wear a mask when asked. I think it’s close to pointless, but is it worth the offense? But am I wrong? Is it a slippery slope?

    I’ll take that one on a case by case, but in general, I don’t go into businesses that require it.  And in a public setting where it’s not required, I won’t.

    My employer does require some limited masking and I follow those rules.

    In the state and locality I live in there are more unmasked out and about than there are masked.  Most businesses here don’t require masks of their customers.

    I recently listened to a podcast on the pandemic that included an observent Jew as one of the guests and an expert on Covid.  He said he carries two sets of masks, one is an N95 and the other a cloth mask.  He wears the N95 in areas of concern, and a cloth mask in areas he’s not concerned about but where a lot of people are wearing them.

    As an observent Jew, he wears a kippah, or skull cap.  He says that if a non-Jewish man or boy enters a synogogue, that person should wear the kippah as a sign of respect, which I agree with.

    He says that wearing that cloth mask is a similar sign of respect.  I disagree, and one reason I do is that a public place is not similar to a place of religious assembly..

    Also, wearing a mask is actually a lot different than wearing a piece of cloth on your head.

    And the more we pander the more we’ll be stuck with this.

    My favorite phrase on this issue is:  We aren’t going to obey our way out of this.

    • #30
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