When Being Right is Wrong

Are we addicted to being right?

Research shows that when we get into stressful discussions, our hormones kick in. Cortisol hits the body, and we default to a fight-or-flight response. If we stay engaged, our voices might get louder. We begin to talk over each other; our pulse and blood pressure rise. It feels like an out-of-body experience.

If others back down, our brains are flooded with adrenaline and dopamine. We feel dominant and invincible. It’s a feeling we like, and it becomes physically addictive. The next time the tension rises, we fight again. And again. We want to get that buzz.

But this power trip can be poisonous. Investing, like many things in life, is a team sport. After a decision, lots of players are part of making it work. If they’re just going along to get along, we won’t get the outcome we need.

Fortunately, there’s a team-building hormone as well: oxytocin. It comes into play when we create human connections, and it helps create interdependence and sharing. By trying to empathize and understand–rather than to dominate–we can build trust and make our decisions more effective.

Sometimes it’s wrong to be right. The best way to communicate just might be to listen.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

Chief Investment Officer

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