The art of maintaining relationships is a tricky one. The skills include tip-toeing through mine fields of hair trigger emotional traps that are set by your coworkers, friends, lover and yourself. Sometimes it seems that life would be a whole lot more simple if we just packed it all in and became hermits in the mountains somewhere.
But escape won’t really make us happy for very long. Humans are social creatures. To survive, we depend upon other humans to provide food, shelter, solice, learning and so forth. If we constantly escape from the mundane world, we’ll soon develop phobias or become extremely self-centered. Living in fantasy worlds, anxiety, depression, ill health and many other maladies find their roots in escapism. So, if you want to have a reasonably good life, you need to interact with other people.
Some time in our lives, we search for a companion or a lover of some sort to provide companionship as a partner on our journey through life. More of us, these days, don’t have such a person. For those us who do, we find that the price of admission into a long term relationship is compassionate, truthful communication. We discover that we need to share our thoughts, happy or not happy, with our partner.
We learned, early on, that a wonderful way to obtain and maintain a close, partnership bond is in the use of the world’s most famous three word sentence. “I love you.” Together, those are very powerful words when spoken or written sincerely and selflessly. That phrase has inspired, sonnets, books, great paintings, music and empires.
But, “I love you” is not the subject of this post. I have three other words in mind today.
As much as we might wish for everyday to be like Valentine’s Day, we know that just isn’t so. No matter what we do, we deal with people. That means we have discussions and negotiations. Sometimes we come to immediate agreements. Other times disagreement and discord are the result. In the aftermath of disagreement, we sometimes cultivate mutually negative opinions about and with our adversarial partner.
While it might seem wonderful to use the three famous words, “I love you” with your family member or lover, you might be committing a huge faux pas in doing so at those times. Your use of the phrase might come off as hollow and even manipulative to the other person. “I love you” will not be an effective phrase at a time of disagreement.
The use of a combination of three other words is called for in this instance. The power of these three magic words, used in the correct order is astonishing. What is that sentence? “I am wrong.” The statement is as much a committment to truthfulness as is “I love you”. If you renounce either statement, your integrity will suffer greatly.
It is most wise to use either statement with prudence and with wisdom. Use the statements only when you really mean to convey a powerful message. If you flippantly say, “I love you” or “I love…(whatever)” you weaken the impact of the sentence. The same holds for “I am wrong”. If you habitually use the term to weasel out of dealing with disagreements, you lessen your integrity, too. And since you can’t take it back, you hurt yourself by denying the strength of what is true to you.
Where, “I am wrong” is most powerful is during those times when a very dearly held opinion or paradigm is seen as a falsehood. Upon serious thought and contemplation, you decide, all on your own, to confess to your adversary that you were wrong. When this is said, you have exercised great power and courage.
Think of people who obsessively need to always be right. Maybe yourself? What is your opinion of such people? Do they come off as warm, considerate, compassionate folks? Do you think that such people actually are always right? Are you always, entirely, miraculously right?
How about people who are strong and stand up for their personal and civil freedoms and way of life, who, at times, admit their mistakes? Do they come off as warm, considerate, compassionate people? Would you trust their judgement in important matters? Would you trust them to be your friends?
Who would you want as a lover; someone who’s always right or someone who admits the error of his ways when it really counts?
If we don’t mind being fully human, willing to make mistakes now and then, do we mind owning up to our errors? What kind of person do we wish to emulate? Do we want to be a died-in-the-wool dogmatist or an adventuristic, inquisitive scientific person?
A dogmatic, my way or the highway kind of guy, comes off tough in his own opinion. He seems overly brash and harsh in the opinions of others. A scientific kind of fellow isn’t afraid to go out on a limb to inquire about things. Sometimes the scientific guy is wrong and admits it. Interestingly, that sort of person seems more friendly and approachable.
That’s also the beauty of scientific methodology. You have the freedom to change your mind if your previous conclusion turns out to be wrong.
At first blush, saying “I am wrong” seems difficult and counterintuitive. Upon thoughtful consideration, if you really are wrong, aren’t you the stronger person when you admit it? You can also consider such thinking as practice, to everyone’s benefit, of good, honest science.