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Forget about “right & wrong”

How can I place myself in a position to obtain what I need without requiring the other party to be wrong?

This single question is the Achilles’ heel of conflict.

The most difficult aspect of conflict resolution is not conflict resolution, but judgement dissolution— letting go of the need to frame others as evil, sinful, deceitful, or mischievous simply because they act in ways that are incongruent with our self-interest.

Creative solutions are relatively easy when the mind is open and active , but it’s impossible to create win-win scenarios when we’re committed to seeing our perspective as “the good side” and all opposing viewpoints as “the bad side.”

One of my cornerstone beliefs is that nobody needs to be wrong in order for you to be right. The corollary of that belief is that you don’t need to be wrong in order for somebody else to be right.

Nevertheless, some people find it psychologically impossible and morally irresponsible to analyze problems without identifying SOMEBODY as being in the wrong.

No problem. Although I think you’d have an easier time if you drop that issue entirely, there’s no need to force it.

Here’s a modified version of the conflict-killing question:

How can I place myself in a position to obtain what I need without requiring the other party to agree with me about how wrong I think they are?

Now, you can remain true to your moral sensitivities, but you can sidestep the improbable task of getting someone to cooperate with you at the expense of their own ego.

Here’s today’s two cents:

If you stay focused on what you need, dealing with “difficult” people gets easier and easier.

If you insist on wrestling with “the enemy” until they bow down to the superiority of your position, then a good fight is exactly what you’ll get.

The choice is yours.


T.K. Coleman

This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. “How can I place myself in a position to obtain what I need without requiring the other party to agree with me about how wrong I think they are?”
    I love this question, it opens up so much deep thought….. Now can I have the answer? LOL

    1. Lol. That made me laugh. I hear ya, though. Honestly, I think the answer is right under your nose (cheesy as that sounds). If you can clear away that other stuff, it will become clear. My two cents 😉

  2. Nice thought – but – what does one do when the other party is rock-footed and rock-ribbed into the belief that there are “good guys” and “bad guys” – and that I have become a “bad guy” because of something I said or tried to do? I am relatively new to the situation in question, and, inadvertently, keep stepping in “stuff”. Now I’m a “bad guy” and find myself being misinterpreted and attacked – when I didn’t even know there were “good guys” and “bad guys”? I think I’m in the midst of people playing “Gotcha!” I’m not asking them to say that I’m right and they’re wrong. I just want them to stop saying I’m wrong without provocation.

    1. That’s a great question, Margaret. For me, this perspective was born precisely as a response to those kinds of situations. I tend to be very non-judgmental, but I found myself in many situations where other people needed me to be wrong. I kept getting frustrated with such people because I wanted them to buy into my non-judgmental philosophy. In essence, I was being judgmental about their refusal to be non-judgmental (sigh). My approach? First, I had to come to grips with the fact that if I was really going to let go of my need for other people to be wrong, then I had to let go of my belief that it is wrong for someone to believe the opposite. In other words, it’s not wrong for you to believe that I am wrong. I may not see myself in the way you see me, but that’s okay. I don’t need to condemn your condemnation of me. If you’re busy condemning me, then YOU may have a difficult time focusing on what YOU truly need. But that’s not MY problem. I can still focus on what I need without getting YOU to become a nonjudgmental person. That way of looking at things allows me to stay focused on what truly matters to me without getting caught up in a sideline fight over the ethics of their behavior.

      If I genuinely feel remorse about something, I will own it. In cases where I feel someone is trying to manipulate me, I simply say something like this:

      “I understand, appreciate, and respect where you’re coming from. Your feelings are absolutely valid and if I were in your shoes I would probably react and feel the same way as you. However, I have my own feelings and perspectives and those are no less valid. I don’t need you to agree with me, but if your goal is to get me to cooperate with you, then you need to understand the following; I am not willing to be wrong for you and if you need be to be wrong, then I have to respectfully terminate this conversation. If you can set aside the debate about who’s right or wrong, however, then I am willing to work with you to help find a solution. I want you to be happy. I want you to get what you want. I’m ready to help you make that happen. But if you want me to stand here and allow you to emasculate me, guilt-trip me, or criticize me as a prerequisite for my cooperation, then I can’t help you. It’s your call. Do you want to skip the right & wrong debate so we can figure out a way to make things easier for you?”

      That’s how I handle it. Now, of course, we’re addressing things in a very general abstract way but we can tailor this approach to a specific situation if you’d like to go deeper (assuming that what I’m saying even helps in the first place). Your call.

      Any thoughts?

      Cheers 🙂


  3. Hello TK, I enjoyed reading your recent interview on LAISSEZ FAIRE.Your views seemed to have a Buddhist-Advaita slant. A couple things came to mind. The first is how Nelson Mandela was able to ‘win over’ his captors at the prison.Mandela seemed to have a philosophy similar to what you espouse.(Is it a philosophy or is it just a natural manifestation which arises in some individuals and is later dubbed a philosophy?) The second thing was thoughts about Richard Lovelace who was imprisoned in the Tower of London.Lovelace is believed to have invented cribbage.I remember his poem which I first saw in high school. Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage; Minds innocent and quiet take That for an hermitage; If I have freedom in my love And in my soul am free, Angels alone,that soar above Enjoy such liberty. Thank you, Rossco Bailey

    Date: Fri, 9 Nov 2012 01:44:44 +0000 To: [email protected]

    1. Hi Rossco,

      I enjoyed reading that. Those two examples you gave are right on the money. Lovelace’s poem expresses it as well as it could be said. The words make me think of The Count of Monte Cristo.

      Although this is a bit harder to prove, I also believe that our inner sense of freedom has the power to alter our outer experience of liberty as well. The physical manifestations of such states aren’t always easy to see nor are they always as exciting as we’d like, but they are there to be found.

      You’ve mapped me pretty well. Advaita Vedanta, combined with the skeptical modern philosophers like Descartes & Hume, has played a pivotal role in helping me question my neverending list of assumptions. It’s a lifelong journey. With each new day comes the awareness of how much of an ignoramus I was yesterday. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      Thanks for connecting with me 🙂



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