Are You Addicted to Being Right?

Yes, you can become addicted to being right. How? The answer lies in the chemicals released in your brain before and after conversations in which you’re fighting to get your point across.

During stressful dialogues, your brain releases cortisol. This hormone release launches you into an instinctive fight or flight state of mind, causing you to either fight until you get your way or to give in and leave your position behind. Cortisol also causes parts of your brain, such as those that help with strategy, trust-building, and compassion, to shut down.

If you feel like you’ve “won” during a stressful conversation, another set of chemicals flood the brain – dopamine and adrenaline. These hormones make you feel good, maybe even dominant, or invincible. And often, we enjoy those feelings and want more of them. The addiction starts with the initial satisfaction of being right. Then, next time you find yourself in a stressful conversation, your body instinctively kicks in to replicate what worked before.

While, in the short run you may often have great ideas, this addiction will eventually have long term negative impact; bringing down morale, limiting ideas from others, and creating an environment where collaboration appears unwanted, even downright scary!

Building a real company is never a “one-person” show. You need different ideas and opinions to ensure you come to the optimal decision. And you need to enable a culture of collaboration if your teams are to succeed. Luckily, there are several things you can do to break your addiction to being right. Here are a few.

How to Break the Addiction

Enact the Power of Oxytocin
Oxytocin is the chemical you want your brain to produce; it opens the prefrontal cortex, which increases your ability to trust, communicate, and build strong relationships. Oxytocin is released in the brain by actions like hugging, giving or receiving gifts, laughing, or taking a relaxing walk. Want a few more ideas? Here you go. Science has shown that the release of Oxytocin helps make meeting more productive, so find what works for you and encourage your team to do the same.

Communicate the Rules & the Agenda
It’s always good practice to set the rules of engagement and the agenda before a meeting. It’s especially helpful to do so when there’s potential for debate or conflict. Get everyone who will be involved to provide their input on how to make the meeting productive and collaborative. Then, have everyone write their idea down and share them with the group before the meeting. In the agenda, be sure to include time for everyone to explain their idea and reasoning as well as time for the group to discuss the options presented, ask questions, and make decisions collaboratively.

Speak Less, Listen More
Whether you’re in a one-on-one or group setting, make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more. This way, you can focus on what the person is saying without judgement so you can process their ideas fully. Listening closely also sets the stage for empathy; to put yourself in the speaker’s shoes. You should pay close attention and read body language to notice the unsaid. The more space you create for others to share their ideas, the more space will be created for you to share yours, which ultimately enables a more collaborative atmosphere.

Bottom Line
The addiction to being right is triggered by the release of chemicals in the brain. If left unattended, this addiction can cause conflict and form a culture of compliance rather than innovation, which can be harmful to your business. Instead, make it your goal to enable a collaborative culture by creating a framework for yourself and your teams to establish a human connection and break the addiction.