It’s great to have strong convictions and believe in yourself — to a degree. But there comes a point at which people become so wedded to their ideas, that they never consider, much less admit, that they just might be wrong. I guess that’s human nature. But it’s a colossal mistake. As Mark Twain said, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”
Even if you’re convinced you are making the correct choice or taking the right position on an issue, there’s always the possibility that you are wrong. Having said that, many people close their eyes, dig in their heels, and continue to march ahead with certainty.
The only thing worse than being wrong is failing to admit it.
Why It’s Hard to Admit That You Goofed
Here are 11 reasons why people fail to admit that they’re wrong. Some folks are:
- Afraid of looking like a failure.
- Competitive — and don’t want to admit defeat.
- Scared that they’ll lose the confidence and trust of others.
- Afraid of looking foolish after taking a public position.
- Troubled they’ll lose progress by choosing to move in a new direction.
- Afraid of looking weak — damaging their image and reputation.
- Concerned about the level of commitment that’s already been made.
- Afraid that bad news will be poorly received.
- Unwilling to evaluate whether circumstances changed since a decision was made.
- More motivated to be right than to do what’s right.
- Always right. Their ego is bigger than the sky.
How to Get a Dose of Reality
It’s always healthy to practice some uncertainty and park your ego at the door by thinking, “Perhaps I’m wrong about this.” Here are 15 ways to get a dose of reality:
- Listen don’t just talk.
- Surround yourself with a diverse set of views and opinions.
- Question your assumptions and challenge your opinions.
- Identify whether a personal bias is clouding your judgment.
- Determine whether you’re evaluating all sides of an issue.
- Debate as if you’re right but listen in case you’re wrong
- Evaluate ideas based on merit rather than the status of the presenter.
- Assess whether an expert is really an expert after all.
- Consider whether you’re acting rationally or emotionally.
- Identify whether you’re making the right decision or the safe one.
- Determine whether a decision is based on sound rationale or is being swayed by groupthink.
- Challenge the status quo rather than be encumbered by previous decisions.
- Focus on the facts rather than opinion.
- Consider whether circumstances have changed since a decision was made.
- Reevaluate whether a program is delivering results as planned.
Admit You’re Wrong … It’s the Right Thing to Do
Some people don’t admit an error because it’s a blow to their ego. Others don’t admit their missteps because it’ll tarnish their image. The truth is, mistakes don’t define you…but the way you respond to them does. Sweeping wrongs under the rug or pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make you look good. When you admit a wrong, people know that you’re honest, humble, and authentic. Plus, it provides an opportunity to learn from it, make a course correction, and move on. As someone once said, “When you’re wrong, admit it. When you’re right, be quiet.” Mistakes are always forgivable. Ignoring them is not. Swallow your pride and turn a wrong into a right.
Check out Frank’s latest book, The Path to a Meaningful Life.
Do You Admit that You’re Wrong?
Please leave a comment and tell us what you think or share it with someone who can benefit from the information.
Some Folks Think They’re Always Right
Is Your Confidence Turning Into Egotism?
Try to Keep Things in Perspective
Do You Have a Healthy Mindset?
How to Have a Fresh Perspective
Failing Doesn’t Make You a Failure
If you like this article, subscribe to our blog so that you don’t miss a single post. Get future posts by RSS feed, email or Facebook. It’s FREE.
A very exciting post!
Thank you for introducing Mark Twain – The saying is of high relevance today.
I was also struck by the long menu embracing reality, given the importance of the subject.
All is true even if we do not want to face them because our ego is bigger than the sky!!!
The very first prescription is deep, with a lot of repeats in many books/leadership readings. However I fail to align what is going on when the only thing put forward is “speak, speak and talk and talk” to be considered as a great leader or a calibre of influence,
I like your concluding remarks “When you admit a wrong, people know that you’re honest, humble, and authentic”
This made me jump into your 2011 post on counterfeit leadership and I must say I have enjoyed it and numerous comments.
Learning never ends,
Frank Sonnenberg says
I’m so glad that you like this post as well as the Counterfeit Leadership essay. Your point about talk talk talk is so important.
Talk is cheap. The fact is, being all talk amounts to nothing more than hollow words. While some people believe that saying something will make it come true, nothing can be further from the truth. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop people from behaving this way. They talk about dreams (but never act on them), make promises (but fail to keep them), and spew noble statements about what they stand for (but let’s get real…actions speak louder than words).
Thanks for taking the time to write.