No one likes being told they are wrong and no one likes how it feels when they realize they have been wrong about something. But, we make countless decisions every day and some will, no doubt, be wrong. It’s simply unavoidable.
Being wrong is part of being human. Admitting it, however, is not. But admitting when we’ve been mistaken not only shows humility but it shows a willingness to learn and to grow; it shows we are more than the position we take on a particular issue. It shows confidence in who we are. So, what about when we’re wrong and we don’t know it?
I am reminded of an insightful TED Talk by Kathryn Schulz titled,“On Being Wrong”. (She has also authored a book titled: “Being Wrong”). She makes a number of great points in the TED Talk presentation but the one I will highlight here is when she asks the audience to tell her how it feels to be wrong. It goes like this:
How does it feel — emotionally — how does it feel to be wrong? Dreadful, thumbs down, embarrassing — thank you, these are great answers, but they’re answers to a different question. You guys are answering the question: How does it feel to realize you’re wrong? (Laughter) Realizing you’re wrong can feel like all of that and a lot of other things, right? I mean it can be devastating, it can be revelatory, it can actually be quite funny…….. But just being wrong doesn’t feel like anything.
She then punctuates her point this way:
It does feel like something to be wrong; it feels like being right.
I love the profound simplicity of that but after processing this, I realized it could be a pretty disconcerting notion.
In business, being wrong about important things in your field can have a profound impact and even be devastating to a career. Especially if it occurs often and in a conspicuous way, such as a bad decision resulting in the loss of significant revenue. But most of the countless decisions we make every day don’t have those kinds of consequences.
Taking risks in business is essential and that means we will sometimes be wrong. So, why the stigma? We’ve all heard the phrase “no risk, no reward”. If we can accept that we make mistakes and it’s ok to be wrong, it can actually be creatively liberating. After all, the definition of success isn’t the absence of mistakes.
And maybe if the executive making the decision that lead to the loss in revenue had been open to opposing views and not been so convinced on the correctness of his position, he may have been able to avoid a catastrophe.
The lesson in all of this, for me, is that we should not take ourselves too seriously, not be so rigid. Sometimes we will be wrong and sometimes we will be right but we should always be open to the possibility that there may be another way to look at a situation.
Maybe we just need to lighten up on ourselves and others when they are wrong. Who knows what creative possibilities might await us when we give ourselves permission to be wrong?
- On Goals (mildmannered.me)