Monday, September 25, 2023

How to admit you’re wrong?

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Julia Strand was confident in her scientific findings when they were published in 2018. Strand’s research found that when a circular light beacon was present in a noisy environment, people spent less energy listening to their interlocutor and responded more quickly than without the light. The feedback was positive, and Strand, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, had been awarded a grant to continue her research.

Several months later, however, Strand was unable to replicate her results. In fact, she found that the opposite was true: the light forced people to think more difficult† Strand had crossed her t’s, dotted her i’s and showed her work – and yet she was wrong.

“The bottom fell out of my stomach,” Strand says. “It was terrible to realize that I had not only made a mistake, but had also published a mistake.”

Being wrong is an inevitable aspect of the human condition. However, defining what is “wrong” can get messy. People can be wrong about all sorts of things, from misremembering the name of a 90s pop song to wrongly blaming a friend during a heated argument. Mistakes happen on a large and small scale, subject matter tangible and moral or ethical. In the book of 2010 Being wrong: adventures in the margins of mistakesauthor Kathryn Schulz loosely defines being unequal “as a departure from external reality, or an internal upheaval in what we believe” — with the caveat that inaccuracy is too great to fit neatly into either category.

Regardless of its definition, people are often afraid to experience it or hesitant to admit it. From an early age, society instills in children the message of “it’s wrong to hit your sister” and “it’s right to say please and thank you.” As time goes on, this binary creates “this level of perfectionism where it’s really hard to be wrong because it feels like your whole person is inherently wrong,” says a licensed marriage and family therapist Moe Ari Brown† “It just puts these value-based labels on everything we do.” In recent years, a whole cottage industry was created, dedicated to revisiting history in an effort to pinpoint past wrongs, to show how much society likes to be right, and to rebuke those who weren’t.

For Strand, much of her fear of her research error was due to the lack of a model on how to admit mistakes. However, accepting that we are capable of being wrong and moving on with blunders relatively unscathed can offer solace to a society that is prudish about slippage.

Obstacles to Recognizing Errors

As Schulz writes, “It feels like something isn’t right. It feels like being right.” Only after a lightbulb moment—like Strand’s after examining her earlier research—are we enlightened to the error of our ways.

What keeps us from realizing our inaccuracy is the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance, says: Adam Fettermanassistant professor and director of the Personality, Emotion and Social Cognition Lab† Cognitive dissonance is when two beliefs or behaviors conflict or when a person’s actions contradict their beliefs. †Examples include smoking despite knowing the health risks or telling a lie despite considering yourself an honest person.) This conflict usually leads to fear or feelings of insecurity.

“We are highly motivated to reduce that uncertainty,” Fetterman says. “Often the most common way people get rid of it is by rejecting the new information or creating a new knowledge that actually gets rid of it. Not too often we change our thoughts or behaviors to align with the new information.” This can be like taking in only information that confirms pre-existing beliefs, justifies the belief, or negates something that contradicts their beliefs.” The motivation to reduce that dissonance leads us to double down or come back even stronger with our beliefs. beliefs,” Fetterman says.

When we make mistakes, we risk social exclusion or shame. As social beings, we are constantly looking for acceptance within groups. Doing something wrong exposes us to criticism from members of those groups. “What I’ve seen in my own research and being wrong with other people’s research on the topic is that the biggest concern people have is that they’re going to be embarrassed or people will think they’re stupid,” Fetterman says. “Admitting that you are wrong, even to yourself, you fear that you will be rejected by your fellow human beings.”

The irony is how wrong we are about the perception that we are wrong. Fetterman’s Research shows admitting mistakes actually improves our reputation. By admitting our mistakes, others see us as kinder and more pleasant. In his lab, Fetterman studies whether knowing the reputational impact of admitting inequalities will determine whether people will be more willing to admit they’re wrong in the future. “So we try to subtly educate people about our own research, and then see if that affects whether they’ll admit they’re wrong in a different situation,” he says.

The wake up call

Acknowledging mistakes can happen as quickly as realizing we tapped the wrong person on the shoulder at an event to a years-long process of slowly determining how we previously saw the world was wrong.

Growing up, Anna Chiranova had specific beliefs: “I thought poor people were lazy and the government was full of a bunch of socialist bureaucrats trying to play Robin Hood with my money,” she says. When she graduated from college, the recession was at its peak. Chiranova held three jobs, none of which offered health insurance, rented an apartment with roommates, and made instant windows stretch to two meals. “I learned pretty quickly that sometimes, no matter how hard you work, there are system errors that hold you back,” says Chiranova, who now runs her own video production company.

Sometimes we form new beliefs that replace old ones, such as Chiranova, or are alarmed by signals that indicate our mistake, such as a two-hour road trip turning into a seven-hour road trip thanks to a few wrong turns. Just the systematic presentation of evidence that defies our beliefs can help point the needle in the direction of a wake-up call, Fetterman says. “Over time, fact after fact after fact will begin to erode people’s beliefs.”

To come to these realizations, Brown says we have to be open to the fact that we are capable of making mistakes and put our egos aside to accept that we live in a world where we hesitate or on the one hand. somehow changed their mind. In fact, Fetterman says, if we accept our own mistakes, we can be more open to mistakes.

It’s normal to get defensive or apologize for why you were wrong, but “these strategies for shifting responsibility for our mistakes get in the way of a better, more productive relationship with mistakes” Schulz writes. Admitting mistakes without excuse — to simply say, “I was wrong” — is a skill, Brown says. “It’s probably going to come out more as an explanation of why they did what they did,” Brown says. But with time and practice, we can come to recognize our mistakes without explaining them. The key is to consistently admit our mistakes as soon as we realize we are wrong.

The negative ways we see ourselves while admitting our mistakes can be the biggest barriers to moving forward. “We stand in our way more than anyone else, with shame, regret, and fear,” Brown says. “Do we forgive ourselves for not doing it right? Sometimes we can beat ourselves up worse than anyone else. And can we let go of that need? Can we bear in mind that we had to apologise?”

Then, if an apology is needed, Brown says you should first acknowledge the wrongdoing and then apologize without shame by saying, “I know I said hurtful things to you during our fight. I was wrong and I apologize.”

Evan Cruz was so steadfastly committed to making his… blog a success that he asked his mother, who he lives with, to support him financially, pay for his living and training while building his platform. Instead, his mother told him to look for a job. Tensions came to a head last October when he accused her of not supporting his causes. “She got very angry about it and charged living expenses for what seemed to show me the lesson of appreciation,” Cruz says.

After a few days, Cruz says he started to see things from his mother’s perspective: “I understand why she doesn’t want to support my blogging activities, since I haven’t made a profit yet. No parent would support that.” He told his mother he was wrong; she told him to show it in his actions. Cruz landed a full-time job as a civil engineer with the Florida Department of Transportation and took up some space. He says their relationship has improved since then.

Use mistakes as an opportunity to model inaccuracies

Normalizing wrongness can help people more easily realize their own fallibility. Fetterman studies what happens when we see someone else admit they’re wrong, especially if they’re in a position of power, such as a politician, influencer, or professor. If we see people admitting mistakes and continuing with them, we are more likely to admit mistakes ourselves.

When Strand informed her co-authors, the editor of the scientific journal where the study was published, the granting agency and the committee assessing her tenure of her mistake, she was relieved that she hadn’t gotten her grant. lost, and she still got employment. “My fears about how dire the consequences could have been have not materialized,” she says. “Seeing that can be helpful to other people because if you’ve done something wrong, and you’ve never seen anyone else do it, it’s very easy to assume that the consequences will be terrible.” In an effort to normalize errors in scientific research, Strand published an account of her experience and was overwhelmed by the response. “I’ve been approached by about a dozen other people who have found flaws in their own work and said, ‘This was really helpful for me to figure out how to deal with this and it inspired me to do the right thing.’ “

Despite the resistance to it, wrongness can be cause for celebration. When we recognize that our hateful comments are hurting our partner, we can enjoy a productive conversation about it and get closer. Asking a question incorrectly in class provides an opportunity to learn. By discovering a flaw in your work, you can grow.

“This is an opportunity for me to learn something,” Strand says. “Here’s an opportunity for me to fix something.”

Even better is here to provide in-depth, actionable advice to help you live a better life. Do you have a question about money and work; friends, family and community; or personal growth and health? Send us your question by filling this in form† We can make a story out of it.


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