Dealing With Someone Who Is Always Right
I think we all know this one person who can’t stand to be wrong. They’ll go out of their way to prove they’re right even with things they know nothing about. Being around someone who’s always right can be exhausting and frustrating! Having a conversation, making plans and simply getting stuff done are all weighed down by the other person’s need to argue, to always be right.
Dealing with someone who is always right can feel disempowering. Because if we believe they are right, then we automatically must be wrong. This line of thinking leads to comparison and judgment as one person will always appear to be “on top” in the relationship rather than honoring equality. It may even feel like who you are, what you think and what you want are all being “blocked” by that person’s unrelenting singular point of view. That feeling may make you want to give up on the relationship entirely. And I get it!
How we deal with someone who is always right…or seems to think they are, greatly impacts our relationship with that person and our own peace of mind. Chances are they don’t even have the awareness to know what they’re doing or how it affects their relationships with others. It’s important that we learn to be proactive in a relationship like this rather than reactive. When you react, you give away your power. When you respond, you empower yourself.
Below are some of the tools that you can use to communicate and interact with someone who is hell-bent on proving how right they are…all the time.
Don’t Fight About It
Stop thinking it’s possible to prove someone who wants to be right, wrong. The more you try to convince them or show them that they are not right, the more tightly they cling to their position. It’s as if they exist on a life raft of their ideas, values, and beliefs, and you are rocking that boat. They will do anything and everything to keep it afloat. Because their being right is attached to their ego and identity, their “life” literally depends on it.
A battle of wills over right and wrong is not a productive use of anyone’s energy. If your goal is to prove him/her wrong so you can be right, that’s just a battle of egos that will continue, ad infinitum. If that’s what you want, don’t bother reading on. This article won’t help you get better at fighting.
Recognize What’s Really Going On
Being right is a paradox. People who are “always right” seem to have such confidence and assuredness. But understand now that righteousness is usually exercised by someone who isn’t certain, someone who fears they might not have it all figured out. You see, we only defend the things in our life that we fear are at risk. We defend weakness and ignorance.
Strength doesn’t need any defense. If one is empowered, strong in their beliefs about who they are and why they are here, they don’t need to defend that. Ask yourself what the need to be right means to that person and also what it means to you if you insist on proving them wrong. This is good information to help you interact less reactively and to see that our mutual needs to be right are related to our needs to be accepted and affirmed.
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Understand the Scope of Right and Wrong
There are infinite answers and multiple ways of being right. One person’s “right” is not necessarily a Universal “rightness.” Many people claim to be right about something that is merely an opinion. Learn to separate these two. Even if someone can prove they are right about something that doesn’t mean it also has to be “right” for you. One person might believe it is “right” to go to college if you want to succeed, but there are a lot of people who become huge successes with barely a high school diploma. So keep in mind, “right,” is almost always subjective (based on experience, not fact). Two people can both be right even when they have opposing perspectives. Learn to allow both points of view to exist at the same time. It’s a super empowering position.
Stay Calm and Cool
People who love to be right also have a tendency to enjoy seeing other people squirm and fume. Your anger and frustration can be rocket fuel for the trajectory of their argument. So when you feel your temperature rising toward an argument, take a deep breath. Excuse yourself if possible and find a place where you can remind yourself how you want to deal with this person. The trick is to diffuse their righteous rant, not add fuel to the fire.
Why Does it Matter?
One of the most important tools in dealing with someone who’s always right is to ask yourself why it matters to you. Are the issues being discussed and defended worth your time and effort? Sometimes they are, but more often than not, they aren’t. If it’s an acquaintance, friend or co-worker, it’s possible that you could simply let that person have their right-ness. What does it matter in the long run?
If possible, disengage and walk away from the conversation. Once you become one of the people who doesn’t care, they’ll likely stop trying to prove their intelligence as much or as often. If the person who needs to be right is your spouse or significant other, then determining what issues matter and which ones can be let go of, is a bigger and more difficult endeavor, though not impossible. Sometimes letting go of the little things will give you the strength and clarity to engage with the more important issues.
Dealing with an Imbalanced Relationship
Intimate relationships that revolve around one person being right all the time are usually very challenging because it’s based on a hierarchy and not equality. If one person is always right then the other person must be proven wrong which constantly puts them at a disadvantage in decision-making. Before long we learn to avoid the kinds of interactions that cause disagreement. This distancing technique can divide a relationship over time, so it’s important that you learn to talk about what underlies the “need to be right.” If open conversations about leveling the playing field don’t produce change, I’d begin to wonder if keeping an imbalanced relationship is worth it in the end?
Stay Away From Heated Topics
Do we have to talk about it? Maybe there are just certain topics that we can avoid. For example, not everyone in my family shares the same political orientation and this past year some pretty heated conversations began to make me feel uncomfortable in family situations…that is until I learned to steer clear of topics where I felt attacked for my point of view. I didn’t want to avoid family gatherings altogether, but I felt like it was best not to talk about certain things with certain people. And so I learned to come to family gatherings with a list of “safe” topics like asking others how their jobs were going. Not everyone can talk about important issues without throwing fireballs, so don’t intentionally put one in their hands.
Keep Your Distance
If someone drives you crazy with their need to always be right, and you’ve tried telling them how their bulldozing behavior makes you feel, but still they continue, you may consider spending less time with them or avoiding them altogether. If it’s someone you must work with and you can’t avoid communicating with them, try to consistently steer conversations back to essential work needs only. Take notice if there are certain situations, like in large groups, or one on one, where that person is especially obnoxious and try to avoid talking business in those settings. Attempt to get more tasks accomplished via work email where the emotions of a heated argument are less likely to be present.
Appeal to Their Higher Self
This can work in a situation where both people care about each other, and about keeping the relationship alive. If this is your situation, you can explain to your partner how their insistence on always being right is shutting you out of participating in the relationship as an equal. Whether or not this has any impact on the person will largely depend on how they perceive the request. They very well may think they are being “called out” and that you are saying their behavior is wrong.
Even if you focus solely on how you feel, they may still perceive it as an attack. If that’s the case, there’s very little you can do to fix the problem. But, on the other hand, they might listen and allow your point of view to be heard and validated more often. Just keep in mind, anyone who insists on always being right has deeper insecurity issues that prevent them from having much empathy for others. Their need to be right and defend their views will continue to dominate their relationships until they seek help.
Develop Your Own Sense of Security
Part of your need to deal with someone who’s always right is based on your own insecurities. Their ability to push your buttons with their righteousness is related to your fears and inhibitions. When we aren’t fully empowered, we struggle for any sense of validation. So it hurts to be proven wrong. When we’re secure in who we are and why we’re here, we don’t need to defend that to anyone. When we’re making our own decisions based on what’s right for us, we don’t need to defend those either.
People who are secure in themselves can allow other people their own opinions, thoughts, and beliefs without feeling threatened by them. This takes a great deal of self-awareness and practice in allowing others to be who they are, just as we want the right to be ourselves. Becoming self-aware won’t stop others from insisting they are right, it just won’t bother you like it used to.
Learn to be more self-aware and self-assured in my online course, Writing Your Way Home, a workshop of soul and self-discovery. Or, consider a few months of interpersonal Empowerment Coaching to accelerate you to feel “good enough” in any situation.
Tell me, do you have this person in your life? How do you deal with them?