The Art of Being Wrong
I love being wrong. There is nothing better than being wrong. In fact, it is often far preferable to be wrong than right. This may sound like a strange thing (especially for me!) to say, but hang in there with me and you might make this your mantra too.
Because you learn more when you’re wrong. And the more wrong you’re willing to be, the more right you’ll eventually become. But, unfortunately, many people struggle with admitting when they’re wrong. Others quite simply will never do it. In other cases, sometimes even with very successful people, situations change or new information becomes available yet they will almost stubbornly ignore it or reject it.
One other common reason people have issues admitting they’re wrong is because they take criticism and feedback too personally. If a person tells them, “you did that badly,” what the recipient hears instead is, “I am bad.” And that leads to an emotional spiral. And so rather than listen, many people react. Instead of learning, many people defend. This is so prevalent that it’s one of the key principles in Robert Cialdini’s classic book Influence. It’s called “Commitment and Consistency”. Once people make up their minds, they tend not to change them – even in the face of facts to the contrary. This leads to a Fixed Mindset, as opposed to a Growth Mindset.
One of the qualities of a person of substance is admitting you’re wrong when you’re wrong. That is what secure people do. One might think this idea does not apply to people who’ve achieved a level of mastery. That is not true: the better you are at something, the more paying attention to good feedback will allow you to make an adjustment that will have a powerful effect on what you’re doing. I make a similar case in sales training – that in order to learn rapidly, you have to increase your failure rate. Get beaten up, bruised and bloodied as fast as you can.
In life there is no failure, only feedback – this is one of the most powerful truths I have ever learned.
In order to admit when you’re wrong, you need to know when you’re wrong. And this requires a secondary skill you must cultivate. It’s called good judgment. Because sometimes you ARE right and everyone around you really is wrong. As Arthur Schopenhauer put it, “Talent is like a marksman who hits a target which others cannot reach; genius is like a marksman who hits a target which others cannot see.”
Bottom line: Those who are never wrong are rarely right.
^ Props: I adapted some of the above from an email I got from Neil Strauss. He’s one of my favorite authors and you should definitely follow him if you don’t already.