What to Do When You’re Wrong – by Mark DuPré

HTALAGU Front CoverThe following excerpt is from the book How to Act Like a Grown-up by Mark DuPré. The excerpt below is a timely reminder for every leader and is definitely “practical wisdom for every age.”

Get some great writing tips from my interview with Mark about “How I Write” here.

Being Wrong

News flash: you’re going to be wrong. Often. That’s not a problem. Not admitting you’ve been wrong is. And not learning from being wrong is a big problem and can result in your becoming an official jerk.

Acting like a grown-up means being able to admit that you’ve been wrong without a lot of drama and without kicking yourself either.

If you were wrong because you didn’t know something or had some wrong information, that’s usually not a big deal. Unless you invested your entire identity and course of action into something that you were wrong about, it shouldn’t be too hard to tell yourself that you missed it.

But here is what you have to do: take the new info and reevaluate everything around it. Change the information you thought you knew into the information you now know, and then hit a big subtotal button about the whole situation. You should come up with a new perspective that is different and better. (That’s not just acting like a grown-up—that’s being a grown-up.) It’s going to be challenging to adopt the new point of view at first, but give it time to sink in.

If you were wrong about something and then acted on it, things get trickier because you’ve taken a situation and invested something in it. (See the chapter on Investing.) You have to divest (also in that chapter), and that’s harder than just admitting you were mistaken about something. After you admit you were wrong, ask yourself what you need to do to clean up the mess.

When you misjudge how to grab something on the kitchen counter and it spills on the floor, you know what you have to clean up. It’s all right there in front of you. When you’ve been wrong about something, you have to think long and hard about what might need cleaning up. Did you trash somebody wrongly? Swallow hard and tell the people you spoke to about it that you were wrong—including the person you were wrong about. Did you do something beyond talking? Do your best to reverse it. It will probably make things better. But even if it doesn’t—or can’t—it will make you a better person because you walked through the process of trying to make things right.

I once found myself in an incredibly difficult and awkward situation that involved many people. But only I and one other person really knew the whole situation, and it was important for many reasons that things not be blasted all over the place. Some former friends heard some wrong things, didn’t ask for the correct information, made huge assumptions and judgments, and then sent me (and this other person) an explosive letter with twelve specific points that they were angry about. All twelve points were wrong because they were based on incorrect or incomplete information.

When the dust settled and I dealt with the fact that I’d lost a couple of friends, I realized how hard it was going to be for them to ever admit they were wrong because they acted so decisively based on inaccurate information. If they had only gotten the whole truth before writing, or hadn’t made a wrong judgment based on bad information, it might not have been so hard to correct things. They made such a huge investment in their wrongness, I’m not sure they will ever be able to admit that they were wrong about anything connected with what happened. That’s sad.

Try never to get into that kind of situation. If you’ve been wrong, man up or woman up and admit it as quickly as you can. Reevaluate the situation or the person, and change your views. Then do what you hope someone would do if he or she were wrong about you.

It’s no insult to find out you’ve been wrong. It stinks, but try to be happier that you learned the truth instead of bummed out that you were wrong.

Click here to go to the  How to Act Like a Grown-up website to learn more or order the book.

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