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Your Brain Is Hooked on Being Right - Judith E. Glaser


Stashed in: Leadership!, Conflict, Brain, HBR

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It's like a drug.

Being right is a drug?

Or the desire to be right is a drug?

From the article, it sounds like dominating and vanquishing is the drug, not actually being right.  But I could be wrong.

You're right.

They've conflated "desire to be right" with "winning a conflict", which are not the same thing:

In situations of high stress, fear or distrust, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol floods the brain. Executive functions that help us with advanced thought processes like strategy, trust building, and compassion shut down. And the amygdala, our instinctive brain, takes over. The body makes a chemical choice about how best to protect itself — in this case from the shame and loss of power associated with being wrong — and as a result is unable to regulate its emotions or handle the gaps between expectations and reality. So we default to one of four responses: fight (keep arguing the point), flight (revert to, and hide behind, group consensus), freeze (disengage from the argument by shutting up) or appease (make nice with your adversary by simply agreeing with him).

Essentially, it's hard to admit we're wrong because doing show is a sign of weakness.

Yes, in this context, being "right" doesn't mean more informed or on a higher moral ground.  It just means winning. 

It makes sense since, even though we don't physically fight as much, our emotional brains were wired when we did.  So we naturally want to "win" when "winning" means survival.  

Instead of falling down rabbit holes, it's better to re-frame conversations so there is no risk of losing, just options.  This can be done in a group (as the author suggests) but also, we can do this in our heads.  Separate emotions from the communication so you can see through the chest thumping.  When nothing is a threat, we realize there is no right (win) or wrong (loss), just useful.  BUT of course, remember those people who can't handle it.  And then avoid them.

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