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How to Deal with Someone Who Always Needs to Be Right

The ability to deal with conflict in relationships is crucial for interpersonal health, and every relationship will experience conflict at some point. Many people have trouble dealing with conflict when they have to contend with someone who’s always right. Understanding how to handle these kinds of interactions can be a huge stress reliever for interpersonal relationships.

1. Don’t take it personally

It’s inevitable to feel like you’re being attacked when talking to someone who’s always right and to wonder if they’re trying to push your buttons. Without intervention, this reaction could trigger strong negative emotions that could further disrupt the conflict. Recognizing that people who always need to be right developed that issue long before they encountered you is the first step to responding more effectively. It’s not a personal attack, just an acquired behavior. You can get some relief from escalating emotions by separating yourself from their learned behaviors. When you remind yourself that their need to be right isn’t a personal attack, you’ll be able to move on from the conversation more easily.

2. Just walk away

Someone who’s always right can drain your energy. When you try to defend your point of view, point out their mistaken assumptions, and point out their discrepancies, you’ll usually burn out, which will show up in verbal aggression and uncontrollable emotions. When a conflict is headed nowhere, knowing when to throw up the white flag is invaluable. As situations escalate, emotions heat up, and you’ve been talking in circles for a long time, it’s best to assertively decide you want to leave the conflict. The key to resolving conflict is direct communication, and you may have to say this more than once before you are able to make your point clear. Individuals who enjoy arguing will rarely settle conflicts until they feel vindicated.

Identifying your own signals of reaching the point of no return is imperative, as is stopping and taking time away from the conflict once you have identified them. If you are trying to leave an emotionally charged situation that has no end in sight, it’s best to remove the emotions from your communication so that you can take a break. It can be very helpful to make a statement like “I need some time away from this discussion to think about it” or “I don’t think we should continue at this point” to gain some perspective.

3. Don’t play the blame game

Being compelled to point it out when someone seems to be hurtfully engaging in conflict or making it difficult to resolve anything and move forward is totally normal. The problem is, this won’t help either party and will probably lead to more dissonance. Blaming causes more problems, whereas taking responsibility can fix them. People who need to be right have probably mastered the art of blaming others in heated debates. Knowing ahead of time that they are likely to try to blame you or avoid taking responsibility for their words or actions can ease some of the pain. Be prepared for the blame game to arise during these discussions, but refuse to participate. 

This situation is often best handled by calmly but assertively stating your position, accepting responsibility verbally, and tempering your expectation that the other side will do the same. By proactively admitting your own role in the argument, you take some power away from them. Then you can walk away and end the conflict – and if it’s a topic worth taking a stand on, you can always leave with an invitation for them to identify their own role in the argument whenever they’re ready.

4. Focus on one issue at a time

People who always want to be right tend to incorporate irrelevant information into their arguments. They can use old incidents, situations they’ve already resolved, and their own past experiences as ammunition. By staying ahead of this pattern, you’ll save energy and avoid rehashing things that don’t matter.

You can use canned phrases to keep conflict on track because they remove the emotion from the moment and can help participants regroup without adding fuel to the fire. By saying “that’s not what we’re working on right now, let’s stay focused” or “I’m not going to discuss anything but our current disagreement” you can avoid adding more trouble. Dragging up everything that has gone wrong in the past won’t help differentiate and solve what’s going on right now; the moment someone starts bringing up situations that have already been addressed, you need to stop this cycle immediately.

There’s no avoiding conflict, but it won’t serve its purpose if the past comes into every argument. Arguments will turn into a free-for-all that only ends in hurt and anger when participants stop feeling that resolution is possible. When it comes to dealing with people who always need to be right, it’s important to recognize attempts to distract from the present topic and insert a neutral, canned statement that follows up right away (with a commitment to stay out of the past).

Getting into conflict is inevitable, especially when you’re constantly dealing with people who want to be right no matter what. In these situations, you’re likely to feel exhausted and doubtful that anything will ever get resolved. There are some outcomes that make maintaining relationships difficult, but in some cases, there’s no way out. Tools that can help you navigate this conflict and minimize its damage are priceless.

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