Being Wrong is a Learning Opportunity

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Image depicts a woman wearing glasses and biting a pencil while looking at a computer screen.

We don’t like to be wrong. Being wrong in our society means losing face, being diminished in the eyes of others. But being wrong, and being open to that possibility, allows us to grow. Making mistakes is often okay in educational environments where we are encouraged to try new things; why doesn’t that value transfer over into the rest of our lives?

The value we place on being right results in a devaluation of being wrong. It also results in defensiveness when our mistakes are pointed out to us. This defensiveness is a natural reaction: we don’t want to be seen as less-than in the group; we don’t want to be considered incompetent; we don’t want to run the risk of being fired. But this defensiveness also keeps us from valuing the mistake as a learning opportunity.

In talking about race and racism, we often see white people get defensive about the fact that they may have done or said something that would be considered racist. If we valued the identification of our mistake as a learning opportunity rather than an occasion to lose face, maybe we wouldn’t get so defensive. Maybe we could grant ourselves the grace to learn from our errors, make repair, and avoid repeating the mistake in the future.

If you find yourself bristling when you’ve made an error, if you find yourself mentally beating yourself up for putting your foot in your mouth, think about why that is. Why aren’t you welcoming this new information? Why aren’t you embracing this opportunity to learn and grow? Take a moment now to reflect on one time when you have been wrong. It can be about anything. How did you react when you realized you were wrong? Was that reaction helpful to you or to the person who pointed out your error? How might your reaction be different in the future if you decide to embrace the growth being offered? If you’re a manager or an executive, how might your team benefit from this embracing reaction?

I am in no way advocating that we all celebrate being wrong about things or hurting people without then attempting to understand and make repair. When you’re wrong, give yourself a break, but then learn why you were wrong, how you can correct the error, and how you might avoid it if the situation comes up again.

©2018 Judy Blair LLC