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To Be Right Or To Be Happy? That is the question.

Updated: Jan 7

I recently spoke on this topic at the Scrum Gathering in Amsterdam, and that was the title of my speech. It was a challenging topic for me to present because I fully admitted an embarrassing mistake. However, I hope you won't judge me too harshly. The main idea of my talk was to emphasize the importance of learning how to manage your emotions if a conversation becomes tense.

The Backstory

During a conversation with a family member, things became very polarized. I was confident that I was right and we both had our heels dug in, causing the conversation to spiral out of control. Instead of choosing from the many options available to me, I abruptly ended the conversation by saying, "How can you be so ignorant?" I thought that if they knew someone considered them "ignorant", they would change their mind, but I was wrong. My approach failed miserably, and it damaged our relationship. Since then, I have vowed to do better and approach difficult conversations with more care and empathy.

Be Happy

even if they disagree both people can be right
Two different ideas can both be right.

Over the past few years, I have come to prioritize my happiness over proving myself right. To achieve this, I have learned to recognize the signs of agitation and to pay attention to changes in my emotions and body. Additionally, I have discovered inspirational quotes that have helped me to better understand certain concepts.

We choose how to show up.
Only I can choose how I show up.

It's interesting to note that the first quote suggests that there may be situations where both parties are correct. This may seem unlikely, but upon further reading, I can see how it can be true. The second quote emphasizes that only I have control over how I react to situations. Of course, there are countless helpful quotes out there, so it's just a matter of finding what resonates with you.

The Five Steps

When trying to avoid coming to an impasse, there are five good steps you can take.

  1. Sincerely ask open-ended questions about the other person's beliefs and understand where they are coming from.

  2. Strive to listen actively, instead of focusing on how you want to respond. This helps you understand what drives their beliefs.

  3. Demonstrate your understanding of their perspective by paraphrasing, summarizing, or repeating what they said. People like to be heard and understood.

  4. Find something to agree on to demonstrate that you don’t have to be polarized. For example, if you're arguing about sprint length, and one person wants four weeks while everyone else wants two, you can say something like, “Well, we all agree on the need to keep the length consistent” or “Everyone believes that it’s important that we have enough time to get things done.” Agreeing helps release the tension and shows that you're not that different.

  5. Share your own perspective, but only after you've earned enough trust to do so. Depending on the issue, it may take weeks to earn enough trust to share your own ideas. When you do share your perspective, avoid sharing just facts, as this may cause the other person to dig deeper into their beliefs. Instead, follow steps one through four many times, and then ask if you can share where you're coming from.

Be Patient

earbuds for listening
Take the time to listen carefully.

It's crucial to understand that the steps involved in resolving a conflict are not necessarily sequential, and it may not always be appropriate to move to the next step. The order of steps may not always be straightforward, such as "1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 4, 1, 1, 2, 5" or "1, 2, 1, 1, 3." Hurrying the process can lead to mistrust, resistance, and further escalation of the conflict. It's important to acknowledge that it may not be the right time to move forward. Instead, choose to prioritize happiness over being right.

Active listening and validating others' ideas are crucial. People often associate their opinions with their identity, making criticism feel personal. To prevent this, take time to show care, listen attentively, and build trust. This fosters mutual respect, safe spaces for dialogue, and the exchange of insights. These practices are essential for effective communication in any setting, leading to more collaboration.

Choose Joy

It can be challenging to communicate through a disagreement. It's natural to want to be right, but it's important to remember that we can only control our own actions. It's essential to focus on changing your own behavior and responses to the situation.


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