You know those kind of people that always know the answer? The kind of people who insist on making sure you have the facts straight? The kind of people who want to make sure that you know if you've gotten something wrong? The kind of people who need to be right?
Yah. I hate those kind of people.
And I hated it even more when I found out that I AM one of those people.
I'm sure to anyone who knows me very well, this information isn't quite the shocker that it was for me. It's probably relatively obvious that I'm a fact-checker, a truth-teller, that I'm opinionated and that at times I can be quite persuasive. I like these things about myself. These qualities make me a fearless teacher, a vulnerable writer and compassionate coach. They help me separate story from reality, highlighting the essential components of my work.
Yet, while these qualities make me great at my job, they don't necessarily help to deepen intimacy within my relationships. In fact, these are some of the worst strategies for building trust, interdependence and affection. Also: so not sexy.
Two months ago, if you were to ask me if I was a person who needed to be right, I would have said, "No, of course not." Of course I didn't need to be right. For sure, I knew it was a losing strategy. I was way too spiritual and enlightened to succumb to anything that pedestrian. I mean, I was a yoga teacher for God's sake.
Except that I totally needed to be right. Especially when it came to my husband. Ironically, I thought this was a good thing. I thought that relying on facts and trying to pinpoint exactly who was right and who was wrong helped to clarify things. I thought that if we used objective reality as our foundation, we'd be able to find clarity around our misunderstandings.
It wasn't until I read Terry Real's New Rules of Marriage that I realized how often I defaulted to this losing strategy. But what really blew my mind was when he said, "Objective reality has no place in close personal relationships."
He went on to say, "Objective evidence is fine for solving a crime or for getting the buses to run on time. But please, don't try it at home. From a relationship point of view, the only sensible answer to the question, 'Who's right and who's wrong?' is 'Who cares?'"
This really took me back to the drawing board when it came to my marriage. I could see that we were both guilty of this tactic: his wanting to be right and my wanting to be right. Oddly enough, it never helped us meet in the middle, it never helped us bridge the gap to intimacy, it never helped us feel loved or supported. It didn't build trust. It didn't build teamwork.
But, it did build a wall.
In order to take down that wall, I knew I would need to radically change my strategy. My need to be right had always been rooted in fear. Fear of chaos, fear of irrationality, fear of violence, fear of anything that remotely looked like my childhood. The minute my relationships started to seem irrational, chaotic or dangerous - I had always dug my heels into truth, facts, numbers and evidence trying to find solid ground on which to stand. This was a great strategy for a child trying to cope within dysfunction. But it's an awful strategy for an adult who desires connection and a ridiculous strategy for someone hoping to create a loving relationship.
So, I am learning to do the opposite. When I get fearful, instead of greedily grasping for evidence, I try to open to generosity. I try to be generous with my love, rather than stingy with fear.
When things get tense, I begin by asking myself, "How can I be even more generous?" And I can feel my body stiffen up in fear. I can feel how frightened I am of surrendering to my relationship, to my marriage to my partnership. To love. I can feel how this "needing to be right" thing builds a wall around me and has helped me pretend to be safe and protected (like the nest from last week). And I can feel how much I don't want to be isolated anymore.
Being generous means that I stop trying to prove my point (even when I really am right). It means that I stop trying to get anyone to understand me (even if I really think it will help). It means that I walk around the wall of rightness and meet the person on the other side. It means I recognize my own fear and turn to love instead. It means that I recognize that most people are just as afraid as I am, which helps me have compassion for all of us.
Generosity means that I choose the relationship. The love. My love. Rather than choosing separation, righteousness or superiority.
Generosity means that -- one brick at a time -- the wall comes down.
The incredible thing about the power of generosity is that it only takes one person to change everything. You do not need a willing partner in this. You do not need to both be on the same page. With a strong dose of humility, a shot of courageous and a deep well of generosity, you start by choosing the relationship rather than choosing your position.
It isn't easy and it isn't an on/off switch. It's a practice that takes an enormous amount of presence and mindfulness.
Begin by choosing intimacy. Begin by choosing love.
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