As Anne Lamott said, “help is the sunny side of control”.
Trying to correct our partner’s—or anyone else’s—behaviour sends the message that somehow WE KNOW BETTER THAN THEY DO.
We’re saying they should do what we think is right, rather than trust their own decision-making.
The biggest relationship-destroyer
From birth, we’re conditioned to make judgments. We say that stuff is “right”, “wrong”, “good”, and “bad”.
We’re also conditioned to want to be right all the time (hello, ego).
When we think we’re right, we want to prove it—and make sure everyone else knows they’re wrong.
Since I was born into a family of stubborn people, I know how quickly conflict can escalate quickly when two people are equally unwilling to back down, both convinced their point of view is the right one.
Stepping out of this toxic cycle is hard, sure, but it can be done.
The question that could save your relationship
So how exactly do we quit trying to be right all the time?
Ask yourself any time whenever you interact with someone:
“Am I trying to connect or correct?“
That’s it. Easy. Simple.
All we need to take ourselves out of “correction” (read: control) mode is to re-align with our intention to connect with the people we love.
It’s also helpful to explore what correction and connection actually look like in practice.
When we’re trying to correct someone’s behaviour, we often want to:
- Be right
- Make them wrong
- Help, rescue, or ‘fix’ (here’s looking at you, empaths)
- Get our own way
When we’re attempting to connect with someone, our intention might be to:
- Build trust
- Reach a win/win scenario
- Ask questions with curiosity
- Create power-with (rather than power-over or power-under)
Think about how it feels to be on the receiving end of someone trying to correct you, whether it’s by giving you advice you didn’t ask for or trying to prove you wrong.
Doesn’t feel great, does it?
Asking this question allows us to remember why we’re speaking to this person in the first place—do we really just want to win? Or do we want to feel seen, heard, and understood (while creating space for them to do the same)?
How to shift from correction to connection
To start with, it’s important to notice how you’re feeling during an interaction.
Are you tightening up in your body, raising your voice, or feeling defensive? Are you trying to prove the other person wrong? Are you feeling uncomfortable?
Pause. Relax. Breathe.
Then ask yourself:
- Am I trying to connect or correct?
- How might I shift my intention from correction to connection?
My personal favorite strategies for shifting into ‘connection’ are to:
- Listen for the feelings my partner is expressing, e.g. sadness/anger/fear (this helps me to feel more compassionate)
- Reflect back what I’m hearing and check my understanding, e.g. “I’m hearing that you’re upset because you think I don’t listen to you… is that right?”
- Take a breather—if I really can’t handle the conversation, I’ll say “I need some space, let’s talk about this another time” and give myself a chance to calm down before trying to pick it back up again so I can engage from a space of connection
And the most important part? Being kind to myself.
I don’t do this perfectly. Neither will you. Sometimes my partner pisses me off so much I WANT to correct him and I can’t stop myself.
But the more we remind ourselves of our intention to build connection, the easier it becomes to get the intimacy and understanding we want—even in the stickiest of situations.