Getting along with with other people is a constant challenge, but one that’s worth our time and effort. Relationships are the most important part of being human. We’re happiest when we’re able to share love with another person. We feel safe when we have the support of other people. And yet somehow we continue to have relationship problems…mostly because of an irrepressible need to be right.

Since it causes so much conflict in our lives, ‘having to be right’ seems like something we’d really want to fix– but there’s a lot at stake, apparently. Our sense of self depends on the beliefs we have about everything. So, whenever we change an opinion, our world looks different. If we change the way we tell our story, we become a little different also. It might even feel like we’ve lost control over reality itself– and that can be kind of scary.

We feel safe knowing who we are, and as we age our beliefs become so rooted they seem to define us. So it’s maddening to have an opinion challenged. I think, therefore I am, is the assertion of the mind, which runs on the fuel of ideas. We all want to be respected for what we know, but– considering how important it is to get along with the people we love– why would we risk our happiness on something as fragile as an opinion? Why allow mental attitudes to overrule our human need to get along?

We’ve become masters at arguing points that don’t bring us closer to the truth of us. In fact, we’re quite willing to forfeit the truth to protect a thought. Yes, we do get in our own way when it comes to creating good relationships, but we have the ability to learn and grow. For the spiritually adventurous, a change in perspective can be thrilling. Discarding an old belief can make us feel calmer, lighter. Freeing ourselves from the main character of our story can even make us feel born again.

So, as you begin a new cycle of human encounters this new year, see how many times you feel the urge to have the last word. Ask yourself “What are the stakes, really? What is there to gain from winning this argument?” See what happens when you take yourself out of the fight. Feel the force of me, that character you’ve created and feel the need to defend, and step back from it. What happens then? You may discover that you can see more clearly and act more effectively. You might realize you’ve created a rich environment for revelation. You might actually start getting a kick out of the human dream.

Not having to be right makes it possible for you to be the quiet at the center of every storm. It makes it easier for you to love. Aside from becoming more accessible to other people– and less contentious with yourself– you’ll be taking another step toward a full and satisfying relationship with life.

Barbara Emrys