We all have what I call “reason muscles”.
These are the abilities we need to handle our own personal flaws that show up in close relationships. I call them “muscles” because they atrophy from disuse but get stronger when we use them.
The first muscle needed to handle wrongness well is the humility muscle, which gives a person the ability to acknowledge potential personal wrongness. When reasonable people use this muscle, the stance is, “I could be wrong, you could be right, let’s talk”. Reasonable people, who have healthy humility muscles, can handle being wrong if being right requires sacrificing the truth. They believe, though perhaps reluctantly, in the maxim, “Truth is your best ally.” It may be painful to acknowledge wrongness, but they’ll do so because being truthful has a higher value to them than being right.
Unwilling to allow for the possibility of wrongness, unreasonable people (manipulators) will sacrifice truth if being truthful means being wrong.
They’ll even lie to avoid being wrong. In fact, some manipulators revise truth so routinely that they delude themselves and come to believe their own revisions. The stance taken is, “I’m right, you’re wrong, end of discussion.” They can be arrogant, inflexible, and never wrong about anything. That’s why “you can’t reason with an unreasonable person.” Your attempts at reasonableness won’t work because they’re not interested in reason; they’re only interested in winning or in being right.
The following statements may reflect an atrophied humility muscle:
- He refuses to admit wrongness even when proven wrong.
- He doesn’t listen to or consider contrary opinions, either from you or from others.
- He holds his positions rigidly with little flexibility.
- He’s “often wrong but never in doubt.”
- He audaciously lies, re-arranges information, or alters history and appears to sincerely believe his own revisions.
- He skillfully persuades others to believe the revisions.
- He rarely, if ever, apologizes. And if he does, the apology is qualified (i.e. “I’m sorry, but you . . .” or “I’ve told you I was wrong. Can we now move on?”)
- He consistently emphasizes your mistakes and errors.
- He wrongly ascribes to you dishonorable intentions and then attacks you for having them.
- He distorts the meaning of your words and won’t allow you to correct the misinterpretation. In other words, “he hears what he wants to hear.”