I am right, you must be wrong

I am right, you must be wrong: this cliché is the general presumption in any conversation and discussion we undertake with others.

In dialogues, we invariably hear the other person with instant judgmental feelings. “That is stupid,” “It is absurd,” “The idea is unreasonable,” “It cannot be done,” “This is incorrect,” “That is not very nice,” “I don’t think so,” and such similar reactions run through our minds during our interactions with others.

Prejudice and pride influence our appraisal of those with whom we communicate in our professional and personal capacities. We habitually consider ourselves to be better informed, more knowledgeable and extra wise than the person with whom we are dealing. And what is worse, most of the time we go so far as to voice our differences of opinion and indulge in unpleasant arguments.

But does this opinionated way of dealing with people help in good human relations and interpersonal skills? “Never,” says Dale Carnegie, the author of the best seller, “How to win friends and influence people,” a book that is considered the Bible for social skills and good etiquette. In the book, Carnegie elucidates the view that not being in agreement with an idea or belief is by itself not an offence. Yet, it becomes one, when we chose to disagree in a loud, hostile and conceited fashion.  It also then becomes a one way ticket to winning enemies and distancing ourselves from others.  

He suggests instead to be subtle and gentle in expressing disagreement. His recommendation is also in sync with the experts of behavioural sciences who believe that when a person is told he is wrong, it acts as a direct blow to his self-respect and no self-respecting person will welcome such a hurling at him.

However when he is told that he is wrong with diplomacy and empathy, he will be less resentful and may then be more open to changing his incorrect views..“Men must be taught as if you taught them not and things unknown proposed as things forgot,” said Alexander Pope, the renowned 18th-century English poet. Lord Chesterfield said it even better as he advised his son, “Be wiser than other people if you can; but do not tell them so.”

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