“I was wrong.”
^^When’s the last time you said that at work?
Maybe you think if you say you were wrong you’ll seem weak or incompetent.
Even worse, maybe you’re worried that admitting you were wrong will make you lose credibility.
Saying “I was wrong” is actually one of the best-kept secrets to being better at your career. So let’s dive in to exactly how to do it effectively.
Why It’s So Hard to Admit We’re Wrong
Saying “I was wrong” is difficult. It’s bad enough to have to say it to a coworker, let alone having to say it to a client or your boss.
The challenge is that we get stuck. We think we need to be right all the time, so when we’re wrong, it hurts our self-identity and can actually be really scary.
The secret is to say, “I was wrong” and then move forward. Don’t get stuck in what it means that you were wrong. (Hint: All it means is that you’re human.)
Let go of the need to be right.
Most of us get stuck around feeling wrong. We get stuck defending what we already decided. Because it feels easier to defend than it does to be wrong.
But we’ve all been on the other side of this, right? Where we witness someone else digging in on a stance that just isn’t working.
We think that if only that person would let go, everyone could move forward.
It’s true. There would be much more harmony and ability to move forward if it were easier to say “I was wrong.” How can we make it more acceptable to be honest like this?
My Own Experience Saying I Was Wrong
In 2017, in my role as VP of Operations, I came up against a big decision about how we should merge two business divisions.
I struggled with how others thought we should do this. I decided that what they were suggesting was stupid, illogical, and not worthy of pursuing.
Digging in my heels and going maverick temporarily cost me my reputation as a collaborative leader. All because I was afraid of this big change and of losing my role as I knew it and my definition of success in that position.
Within nine months, I saw what others had been seeing and saying. The power of zooming out and detaching from my bias was huge. Gaining this perspective was way more beneficial than being in fight or flight mode and panicking about change.
At this point, I had two choices: Dig in and “stick to my guns” even though I’d realized I was wrong, or admit I was wrong and move forward.
Fortunately, I had a ton of self-awareness techniques up my sleeve at this point. I knew how to spot counterproductive stories in my own mind.
I changed my tune and told my team that I had been wrong. The funny thing is that this actually gained me back the credibility I’d lost nine months before.
How to Say “I Was Wrong”
Even with all my training in mindset and behavior optimization, I’ll admit it wasn’t easy to come back to my team and say, “I was wrong.”
But I knew that saying this wasn’t about me as a person. I wasn’t wrong or bad or incompetent.
On the contrary, I was smart enough to pay attention. My new decision was based on hearing all the ideas and being open to seeing things in a different way.
If you’re ready to admit you were wrong, here are the four steps that will help you do it effectively and actually increase your credibility.
First, take a breath and recognize this conversation is uncomfortable, and in this moment there’s an unknown outcome. Acknowledge that it’s OK to feel the way you feel. This will help you let go of the worry that brings on anxiety and “fight or flight.”
Just picture that diner scene from Pulp Fiction when the female robber starts freaking out and pointing her gun in every direction, and Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta keep telling her to “be cool.”
Listen and ask questions. “Guided discovery” is a great technique used when negotiating. You can use it to start a conversation with open-ended questions.
Tell the other people involved that you want to think things over and come back to the conversation later. This gives you time to zoom out and open your mind. It also gives you a chance to completely calm your nervous system. After all, just because you’re telling your adrenaline to “be cool” doesn’t mean it will happen right away.
After you’ve had time to regroup, go back and approach the conversation from a new perspective. When you’re focused on Truth Winning, you’re trying to prove your point or justify your position. This often leads you to take the bait for a fight.
On the other hand, when you’re Truth Seeking you’re remaining curious. You’re asking questions and presenting your own ideas with openness and curiosity about how they’ll be received.
How Will You Use This Technique?
Admitting you were wrong can go from a painful experience to one of your best tools for building trust, credibility, and collaboration in the workplace.
If you follow the steps to accept the situation, ask questions, take time away, and then return with a curiosity mindset, you’ll benefit and so will your team.
Plus, there’s a bonus to this technique! You can use these steps anytime adversity strikes. Maybe you’re in a gray area at work, or things are out of your control.
Whatever stressful situation you’re in, if you use these techniques, you’ll soon find yourself growing from difficult interactions instead of letting them get the best of you.
Need some help finding your “cool” when you realize you were wrong? That’s where I can help. I’m a career coach who specializes in helping you take control of your thoughts and actions so you can perform your best and have the career of your dreams.
Schedule your free strategy session today and unleash your potential.