Being Right and Other Values

It’s frustrating when you’re right, you know it, and you still can’t win. The frustration feels terrible. But how you feel is often far from the most important thing.

Here’s the story: I sent my insurance company a check for $541 to cover a premium. The company credited it incorrectly as an installment payment of only $54.10. The next bill included an installment fee of $4. When my bank statement arrived with a photocopy of the check, my check said clearly “Five hundred forty one”, though only $54.10 was deducted from my account. Some fool at the insurance company was careless and I got billed for it.

What to do?

I have the proof of their error. I could protest and send them a copy of the check. They would have to remove the $4 charge and apologize. I’d still have to pay the difference, but I’d be vindicated and avoid the annoying fee. I would have an emotional triumph over a big insurance company. Think of the satisfaction!

But there’s a problem.

An important value of mine is to use my time well. Writing a letter of explanation and enclosing a copy of the check would take at least 15 minutes. Paying the unjust $4 fee and the balance would take only a minute or two.  My time is certainly worth more than $16 per hour. I wrote the check and put the incident out of my mind.

Emotionally, deciding to pay the fee was difficult at first. After all, I was right and they were wrong. Only when I was able to put it in perspective of more important values did it become the obvious solution.

I like being right. Don’t we all? but sometimes being right doesn’t matter very much.

Here’s the takeaway: emotions sometimes conflict with values. When that happens, remember that emotions are temporary while values persist through time. You’ll get over an uncomfortable feeling, but you risk feeling worse if you violate your values.

Feel how you feel, but act on the values.