A Beginner’s Guide to Being Wrong

You know you’re wrong.

Your mouth goes dry and you get that sick feeling in your stomach. You feel the back of your neck heat up and your face flush. Your brain goes white for a moment and then suddenly sparks to life with neon panic, thoughts racing, light streaking, and a million ridiculous justifications come screeching to the forefront and you have less than a split second to stop them from coming out of your mouth.

This split second, this teeny moment in time, is powerful. It is only in this space that you can stop and admit that You. Are. Wrong.

This iota of time exists for everyone but few of us can harness its power.

But! We can get better. We can be teachable. It just takes some practice.

First, let’s explore the reasons we won’t admit fault. Then, let’s take a look at how this protection of our ego shapes our experiences with others. Finally, let’s practice vulnerability with some baby steps and get to the business of changing our world.

Wendy Rose Gould wrote an article wherein she unpacks some issues we have with being wrong. Instead of just parroting what I read back to you, I would love to tell you a little story about me, um, I mean, my friend. Let’s call her . . . Zen.

Zen was hanging out at a coffee shop with her friends and the conversation turned to [insert polarizing topic here]. It wasn’t really a big deal though because Zen pals around with people who think just like her. If anything, this chat was to commiserate about how wrong everyone else was. She quoted an article she’d read and then it happened; one of her beloveds told her she was mistaken, she must’ve read it incorrectly, or maybe the article wasn’t true.

Zen blinked a couple of times, her face flushed and her neck hot. She insisted that she was right and, frankly, the situation got ugly. We don’t have to hear every sentence, do we? You get the gist. Zen became flustered and she knew her arguments weren’t making any sense. She made an excuse to duck out early.

Zen was embarrassed, felt guilty for lashing out at a friend, and was now worried that her circle would lose respect for her or unfriend her altogether.

Yikes, right? No wonder we don’t ever want to be wrong if being wrong feels like that.

So now, our girl Zen is faced with a choice. She knows the information she shared was wrong and she knows she handled the situation incorrectly. Her mom tries to make her feel better by using tired cliches like, “you’re only human and humans make mistakes”. (Although, let the record show that her mother hasn’t made a mistake since the late 80’s.)

But as humans we have the unique ability to self-reflect.

Zen definitely missed her moment to stop the verbal diarrhea of defensiveness and so her next option is the scariest of all; make herself vulnerable.

Do you immediately think of Brene Brown when you read or hear the word vulnerability? She literally wrote the book on this subject.

Zen called up her friend and admitted she was wrong. She apologized for lashing out and said those five words that set her free; I guess I was wrong.

Being open to being wrong means that you are teachable. It means you have room for improvement. It endears you to others and exponential personal growth can happen when you learn more than you think you know.

Gould’s article lists five ways to get better at admitting our wrongs. Unfortunately, the first one is that tired cliche from above. Secondly, make a list of your flaws. YIKES. Third, ask for feedback when you’re caught making a mistake. Fourth, be open to that feedback and take emotion out of the equation as much as you can. Lastly, talk to a therapist if you have issues with being wrong.

This year is prime time for taking a look at ourselves and all of the ways that we are right and they are wrong. We’ve never lived in such a polarizing time and tough conversations are a near daily occurrence in my world.

Recently, I made a list of “Everything I Think I’m Right About.” Just kidding, but off the top of my head I have recently been humbled around the topics of racism, Christianity, and parenting. And that was just this week!

Stay humble, friends. Be courageous, be vulnerable, and embrace being wrong.



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