Right or wrong versus context

What is your point of view?Today we are going to explore a subject that is glaringly obvious, yet, somehow, seems to be overlooked by most people – especially with respect to their feelings and emotional reactions, and that is:

How can you be right (or wrong) without a definition of the context of the answer?

At the simplest level this can be observed when your family plays a quiz game like Trivial Pursuit – a question is asked, and the ‘right’ answer is the one written on the back of the card, even if it is wrong! So, one player may get the fact right, but (under the rules of the game) be wrong – in one context he is right and in another context he is wrong.

Even in a simple situation like this there is often a big emotional response – and because this website is all about letting go of emotional responses, it makes sense to bring in the power of adding context to the situation so we can have more self-awareness and choices with respect to our emotions.

So, let’s break it down a little further…. We have all experienced friends and relations who get all emotionally worked up whilst playing games, some hate to lose, others feel embarrassed if they are not very good at them and some don’t even want to play, saying “It’s just silly.”

When we add context to these responses it is important to observe which part of them is ‘playing’? Is it their ego who doesn’t want to lose, or must win, or feels uncomfortable? Is it their beliefs that feel it isn’t fair that I got the right answer but it isn’t accepted? Is it their unconscious fears about looking silly or feeling not clever enough? Or are they just responding from conditioned responses like – “That’s not the way we do it!”

As you observe peoples emotional responses it becomes clear that, even in each individual player, many differing ‘selves’ may be at the table, and each of these internal aspects of the person, may have an emotional response depending on what context of the game delights (or scares) them.

We can see this clearly in a game, but what about in real life?

Let’s say a couple agree to meet up in a cafe at 12:00 – He arrives at 11:55 because he hates to be late, and she arrives at 12:05 because time keeping isn’t that important to her.

He might think to himself – ‘You are late, you’ve kept me waiting, if you cared for me, you would have been on time.‘ And from a certain perspective he might be right, however, from the context of his partner – they may be thinking – ‘Why is he so hung-up on the time? Anyway, if he didn’t arrive so early, he wouldn’t have to wait so long, plus, what has timekeeping got to do with how much I care for him?’ And from a certain perspective she is right.

Of course, we just made that up, but it is very representative of how small arguments and tiffs can escalate, and in truth, both parties are right and both parties are wrong! Because there are many contexts that change what is right and what is wrong:

  • Actually they were both 5 minutes away from the meeting time
  • Is being on-time a measure of how much you care? If so, does being delayed mean you don’t care?
  • What had each party been doing before hand? Was one shopping and the other at a job interview?
  • Was this a first date or just a coffee?
  • Had one of them promised to be on-time?

The list goes on and on.

If you are looking to have more calmness and less emotional responses to life, learning to detach and explore the context of what is right or wrong, good or bad is very important – and you’ll soon see that in most arguments the only context that is being used is “I am right” and both parties are using it!

So, the next time a person is shouting at you or complaining, ask yourself what is the context that they are using to define what is right or wrong (to them)? Not you! In the case above, the woman might have said “Sorry I’m late, I know punctuality is important to you” followed by a hug. That response would be good, but you would need to approach it from a view point of ‘what is their context?’ and not wanting drama in your life.

If learning how to manage your emotions and finding new ways to interface with life and people is important to you the Calmness In Mind program may be of interest to you.

Posted in: Personal Growth Blog

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