All too often in business and in life, this becomes the decision you have to make.  Obviously being right and successful aren’t mutually exclusive.  However, it’s important to ask yourself this question because you’ll come across situations where it will come down to this decision and knowing ahead of time and keep you on the right track to resolution.

While conviction, passion, resolve, and determination are critical to your success, don’t get fooled into letting those positive qualities come with (and sometimes disguise themselves as) needing to be right.  While pushing forward, and growing personally and professionally, is critical that we stay open to learning, and not get caught up in who’s right and who’s getting credit.

Like the quote says “it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit”!

Another way to ask the question is; if you could choose between your ego and your success, which would you choose?

I think each of us would say that we would choose success, but in daily practice that can be easier said than done.  Here’s some ideas on how to stay on track and recognize the common pitfalls.

Focus on What’s Right, not Who’s Right

A guiding principle to stay on track is to keep focused on what’s right instead of who’s right.  This way, we can stay in constant pursuit of the best option for all considered, which is usually centred around the truth.  As soon as we “attach” ourselves to an opinion, we’re crossing into “who’s right” territory.  “What’s right” allows us to stay fluid in the conversation allowing us to stay focused on all things and not just our own current view.  It’s so simple, but can be very easy to lose site of.

How to Spot a “Who’s Right” Conversation


Not just emotion, but specifically emotion that leads to a lack of objectivity.

Passion and emotion are closely linked and passion is critical for a fulfilling life and success in business.  It typically stems from an intrinsic sense of vision and purpose.

Emotion that clouds objectivity is a different matter.  We heard an interesting quote: “Keep emotion in the back seat.  It’s important so you don’t want to lock it in the trunk, but definitely don’t let it have the steering wheel”.

Lack of objectivity as it relates to emotion is more an indication of tunnel vision and leads to all kinds of challenges in solving any problem.

Seeing Things From One Perspective

As the saying goes, “there’s at least three sides to every story”.  The key is to (1) do a good job of understanding your own perspective and why you believe it’s the “right” approach and (2) to be able to view the same set of circumstances from more than one view (ideally several perspectives).

Being able to see things from more than one perspective is critical in developing empathy (not sympathy) for others, which in turn is a critical factor in successful relationships (of any kind).  It’s also a sure sign of a balanced view, and someone that is seeking the best option for all, as opposed to being right .  It’s more about seeing the overall picture than insisting upon one’s current view being the right one.

Seeing only one perspective is a sure sign that things are not in a productive, high value place and it’s going to make coming to resolution exponentially more difficult.



Black and White Thinking

Few things are black and white, and there’s a strong correlation between unchecked emotion and seeing things through a black and white lens.  If you’re engaged and open to nuance and subtleties it’s going to leave your mind open to more options and information that will ultimately allow you to act on everyones behalf and not just yours.

Refusal to Recognize Valid Points

Unchecked emotion can quickly trump logic and rationale.  If you’re dealing with someone (or catch yourself refusing to recognize valid points) it time to take a step back and revisit your larger goals.  Valid points come from any where and we need to remain open to that concept.  As soon as we limit the number of places where good ideas and valid concepts can come from (and especially if thats limited to ourselves) we immediately put the best outcome for all, and truth at risk.

Too Many Objections

Challenging each other is a natural part of personal growth and human evolution.  However, when a conversation becomes a series of objections it’s a sign that there’s a bigger disconnect afoot.  It’s time to look deeper before the conversation becomes all about who’s right, and a conflict between two egos.

Circular Conversations

Again, challenging each other is natural, but a sure sign that all parties are not (successfully) seeking the truth is when the conversation becomes circular.  Very similar to “Too Many Objections” above, there is probably something deeper going on that needs to be looked at.    The circular nature of the conversation becomes clear when objections have each been addressed rationally one at a time, and then they resurface as thought they’ve not been addressed.

What To Do If You See These Signs

Our advice; if you find yourself in a who’s right state, it’s best to take a step back, check your ego and revisit your vision and higher level goals.  Often that alone will get your head into a better state for a high value engagement and finding resolution.

If on the other hand, you’re talking to someone who is exhibiting some of these signs, you have a choice to make; you can talk to them directly, but beware, not everyone is ready to hear that they’re caught up in being right.

Alternatively, you may have a decision to make; would you rather be right, or successful.  You may find that their position and decisions may not be “right” according to your best assessment, but maybe when you step back, they’re doable and ultimately will keep the relationship in good standing and equate to a better chance for success in the end.

For us, keeping a high level question like “would you rather be right or successful” has helped us in countless business dealings (and is always a work in progress!).

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