People talk about things being right, wrong, good, or bad as if these properties had absolute or objective standards. They don’t and it matters to leaders and anyone else trying to influence someone with different values.
If you want to motivate someone you disagree with and you call them wrong or bad, you can bet they don’t consider themselves wrong or bad. They consider themselves right and good. Your suggesting otherwise will undermine your credibility with them, no matter how good and right you feel. Without credibility, you lose your ability to motivate them.
Today I’d like to undermine the universality some people imagine right, wrong, good, and bad to have beyond being opinion. Opinion is important, but we understand different people have different opinions, or at least a lot of people do. Saying something is right, wrong, good, or bad implies everyone should agree.
If good, bad, right, and wrong are eternal, unchanging, absolute, or beyond opinion what they represent must have been around forever. Now imagine the world or universe before people existed. Before life existed. Before the Earth existed. Imagine a universe of stars, galaxies, and such moving through space.
Were those stars and clouds of gases doing good and bad back then? Was there right and wrong before humans were around? Was there right and wrong when there were just balls of gas falling into stars? If right and wrong and good and bad are so absolute, shouldn’t there have been right and wrong before humans existed?
It’s hard to imagine right, wrong, good, and bad meaning anything then. The concepts just don’t have meaning in that context.
The concepts didn’t exist before people did. We evolved judgment, created words to describe our feelings, and thus emerged good, bad, right, and wrong.
What to use instead
Instead of right, wrong, good, and bad, I recommend focusing on the consequences of people’s actions. I recommend basing your decisions and leading based on consequence over feelings of judgment. If you want to know if you would or should do something, think of how your doing something will affect others. If you want to tell someone you think they’re wrong or bad, try telling them what you think the consequences of their actions will be and how they will affect others instead.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees