Jay Shirley

Striving to be a man of gallantry and taste

Law of Right

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As a parent I have learned a lot about my kids. Most importantly, I’ve learned what certain cries really mean. When I heard the cry from the other room I knew exactly what happened. My kids were arguing over something, and I had a good idea as to what.

My son’s extreme desire to be right was up against my daughter’s extreme desire to be contrarian. She will argue that 2+2 is 5 just for the sake of the argument. This is a game she plays and it kills my son. He must be correct and cannot stand letting people be wrong.

The problem he has is his inability to argue someone into being right. When people have incorrect notions, arguing with them won’t help that. There is only one outcome in an argument: All participants get upset.

But wait, there’s more!

When people are upset they cannot learn. This even happens outside of arguments. Troubled schools with lagging student performance don’t start out bad (the students, though I guess the schools don’t either). New students tend to be on equal footing, regardless of school. The differences show up after the first few grades. Only after years of living in a fearful environment, rife with emotional trauma, do the differences really emerge.

For people to learn, they must be safe, secure and free from emotions. Yelling loudly at someone doesn’t create any of those circumstances. These are not suggestions, they are natural laws. Except they’re hard to understand and implement.

If I hold an egg out and let go, we can easily see that gravity takes over. The egg plummets to the ground, cracking and making a big mess. If I want to correct someone, and argue about their misguided view, I’m cracking that egg. I’m making a mess.

Don’t make scrambled eggs

Think outcome first. If the true objective is to help the other person understand that 2+2 is, in actuality, 4 you can’t yell the mistake out of them. Make them feel safe and happy. The easiest way to create this experience? Ask them why they have that belief, but genuinely participate in the discussion. Learn about their belief.

After all, you may be the one who is wrong.