Woman and man sitting in cafe upset and angry.

Why Being Right Doesn’t Always Mean Being Happy

Most people would rather be right than happy.

We all have theories about the world and then unconsciously act in ways that confirm the theories, even if it makes us miserable.

Jessica, a new client, brought me a three-inch stack of email correspondence from her two business associates saying she needed protection from them. She had funded a project and they weren’t giving her the “deliverables”. She wanted me to mediate.

I have to admit, I’m pretty quick to take “the woman’s side,” but these emails were full of information, empathy, and feedback.

When we met with the “guys,” Jessica was able to say what she wanted, and they affirmed their commitment and vice a versa. The project was well underway although somewhat modified due to changing requirements. In fact the guys were delivering more than they had signed up for. At the end of our session, all wanted to continue our work and said I had delivered more than they had hoped for.

But ten days later, I got an email from Jessica saying, “They aren’t talking to me, I feel like everything we did was a waste of time and money.” (Notice, this is the same complaint I had heard earlier from her about her partners).

So, I offered to meet with them again, but Jessica never responded. When I sent a final invoice for our work, she wrote a curt email, saying she wouldn’t pay me because I hadn’t produced the “deliverables.” 

I was surprised and angry at first, but then I understood what had happened.

Jessica had a theory. People will take advantage of me. They don’t deliver what they say they will, and they don’t communicate with me.

The amount of the invoice was small. I didn’t call her. I fulfilled Jessica’s theory. 

She got to be “right”. Happy, no!

Are you stuck with a theory? Let’s find out!

  1. Name a situation where you are frustrated, disappointed, and angry. I am disappointed that I got turned down again for that promotion!
  2. In what other situations did you feel this same kind of frustration, disappointment, or anger? I was really jealous when my brother got a promotion last year.
  3. What are the characteristics of these two situations? Can you see any patterns? In both situations I was mad because I felt overlooked, whereas men got the attention.
  4. Can you detect a theory operating here? A belief being carried around? Women have a hard time getting ahead in business. If I were a man, I would already be ahead of the game. My mother stayed at home and did all the work, while my father traveled and had fun, now the same thing is happening to me.   

Once you’ve discovered your theory, think about the benefits it creates for you? I don’t have to take responsibility for not being as successful as I’d like to be. 

Then think about the costs. 

The more we can bring this to awareness, the more control and choices we will have.

In Jessica’s case, she avoided the responsibility of really understanding the project, of feeling overwhelmed by its scope. What it cost her was getting what she wanted and being able to have productive long-term partnerships.

See if you can discover a theory that’s getting in your way.

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About The Author

Elizabeth B. Crook's picture

Elizabeth B. Crook is CEO of Orchard Advisors. For over twenty years, she has worked with CEO's and entrepreneurs to think and act strategically to grow their companies' bottom line and have more overall satisfaction. She has a gift for making sense of complex situations and mapping them so creative and practical approaches emerge. Clients speak of her insight, skill, authenticity, and willingness to ask the hard questions in a gentle way. 

She is also the bestselling author of Live Large: The Achiever’s Guide to What’s Next. Recent media features include ForbesFast CompanyDaily WorthPBS Next AvenueThrive Global, Conscious Company, and BetterBook Club.

A mother, grandmother, and ardent hiker, she lives on Music Row in Nashville. 

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