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Why I Love People Who Think They’re Wrong


Attempting to Zoom with three college friends, I twice tried and failed to get into the session. I assumed I’d done something wrong ‘til I received a text from one friend who was having the same difficulty and another from the Zoom “inviter” who couldn’t get the link to work. We each thought we were the ones who’d messed up.

Then the ”inviter” re-sent the link and three of us got in, but the fourth kept texting, “I can’t get in. Help! What am I doing wrong?” She eventually used the re-sent link and there we all finally were laughing at how pathetic we are at technology.

These are my kind of people: their first thought is they must be at fault. Why, you might ask, would I be such a fan of people who automatically think they’re wrong? Because back in social work school, one of my professors explained how to distinguish people with personality disorders (PDs) from those who are simply neurotic: Folks who insist they’re right and others must be wrong often have PDs, while those who assume there’s something wrong with themselves are merely neurotic. Thirty-five years later, I more or less have found his quasi-clinical presumption to be spot on.

Think of it this way—which is easier: to go from thinking “It must be me who’s wrong” to “It must be you” or to go from “It must be you who’s wrong” to “It must be me”? If you can admit to wrongdoing, that means you can bear being wrong. “Oh, goody,” you think when you’re not at fault, “it wasn’t me this time.” But if you can’t abide being wrong and always think it’s the other person, that’s an indication it’s too painful (aka shameful) for you to be in error and you’ll do almost anything to avoid being at fault.

Many clients who are dysregulated eaters go overboard with compulsive apologizing because they were raised by people who never thought they were anything but right. These clients got used to tolerating the shame of being in the wrong, but they can go too far by habitually refusing to think that someone else can be wrong. As the perpetual offender, they can too easily end up serving the emotional needs of people who never see themselves as wrong, folks who are thankful they have someone else to blame.

Think of your childhood: Could family members acknowledge mistakes and apologize or did they usually blame others when things went awry? Which kind of person are you? Hopefully, you’re moving toward being more balanced and you know that sometimes you’ll be right and sometimes you’ll be wrong and who cares anyway. My advice: Treasure people who can shoulder the blame and run like hell from those who can’t.