I remember the jolt I received even though it was so many years ago. I was reading Dale Carnegie’s timeless classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People for the very first time and he told a story on himself.
In summary, while at a banquet, Mr. Carnegie corrected a statement made by another guest about something trivial. Dale’s friend, sitting next to him, over-rode his correction, stating that the person was actually correct.
Later, when Dale asked his friend — whom he was certain knew better — why he did that, he received an admonishment. Paraphrased, it was, “why prove to someone that they are wrong? Why not let him save face?”
It jolted me because I often did that very same thing. It was as though I couldn’t resist pointing out someone’s error, even something harmless and trivial. (Thereby, of course, highlighting my superior knowledge.) And, while no good was accomplished, it embarrassed the other person (often in front of others) and caused resentment towards me.
Now, you might be thinking, “But, Bob, is it right to not correct when you know something is factually incorrect?” And, my response would be that it depends upon the context of the situation. For example: is it important enough that it needs to be corrected? Is there a benefit to doing it? Would it be more helpful or harmful to do so? Will it shame the person or be well received?
Example: Someone says, “Yes, that Ted Williams was the best. Last guy to hit .406. Way back in 1940.”
The truth is that it was in 1941. My suggestion is that — whether to correct the person or not depends upon the above questions. If it’s a discussion between two friends, of course, correct. If not, and/or it would embarrass them publicly, don’t. Should you tell them later? It depends? Probably no harm in doing so. You could even use one of the lead-in phrases such as, “I might be wrong about this”…and then continue with, “I’m thinking it might have been in ’41.”
What will happen is that — if he or she really cares enough to know the truth — they will check.
Yes, this is a very minor example. Yet, how often have you seen people correct others publicly as described above, doing more harm than good? Ever? Have you ever done that? Has someone ever done that to you? How did you feel about it…and, about them?
Again, each situation is different. But, when in doubt, best that if you’re going to be right, that it not be at someone else’s expense.
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It may seem trivial and even when it is not the point is well taken. In a public situation the matter of ‘correction’ is almost never over anything so substantive that an immediate correction is called for. Better to wait and speak in private to the individual whose statement is in error. Often what happens is that the person making the correction is looked at aghast by the assemblage for being so rude – Story and true: at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Palm Spring a speaker was going smoothly along and said the word ‘he” when a stalward lady arose to her feet and bellowed out “he OR she” – obviously annoyed that he used the masculine form to refer to a group that included both boys and girls. Well, although from one point of view she may have had a point, her Klout score in that group declined quite a bit in that revelatory moment! Obviously she could not wait to prove her own point of view the correct one.
End of story.
Wayne, thank you for sharing that story; I could almost feel the embarrassment within the room while I was reading it. And while, yes, he could have been more thoughtful and inclusive in his words, I’m sure the person who publicly corrected was seen as the rude one. WOW!
Our lives become a chain of choices. The things we choose to put our attention on (and how we prioritize them) create the life we are living. What is at the top of your priority list? Where does your own fulfillment and growth lie? Making conscious choices that relate back to our values is the ultimate goal. Every decision we make will direct us toward grievance or the flow of goodness…we must be ever aware of this.
What is your intention? This is what we need ask ourselves with everything we do and say. Is your intention to spread your goodness? Is your intention to belittle others? Is your intention something that changes depending on the circumstances and people you are associating with at the time? In order to live a life without regrets, we must ask ourselves these questions…and answer honestly.
Everyone is a teacher and a student. We learn from each person we interact with. We exchange energy and are left with a feeling, and emotion, even if it is subtle. And so, if others are learning from us…what are we teaching? Share who you are (from your heart) with the world around you.
As long as we see what has come to pass as being unfair, we’ll be a prisoner of what might have been. We must let go of grudges and any sense of being a victim. In order to truly find peace in our hearts and create an environment that promotes growth and happiness, we must accept what is; good or bad. Each day is an opportunity to create the life we desire; regardless of our surroundings.
Let go of expectations. Expecting others to live and do as you see fit brings nothing but resentment and frustration to everyone involved. Acceptance, without conditions, is what makes for satisfying relationships. When we take the focus off of what is wrong with the people around us it’s interesting to see how we end up liking them and ourselves so much more.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thank you, Suzanne.
Wayne’s story is interesting. As a woman, I can appreciate the woman’s insistence on being “included.” Saving face is a two way street. The speaker could have acknowledged his error, smiled and thanked the woman.
Angie, even as a man I can appreciate the woman’s feelings about the non-inclusive words the speaker used. I think the point Wayne was making (and that the audience of both men and women agreed with) was that standing up and correcting him as she did – and in the tone she did – in the middle of his presentation was perhaps not the proper time to do so. And, yes, I also hope that he did acknowledge (and apologize for) his error, which it was.
Great lesson here, as always. You actually did this (or didn’t do this) with on one of our Go-Giver Coaches Calls. I was commenting on the lesson and I referred to “The Law of Diminishing INTENT” which you had just discussed. I incorrectly referred to it as “The Law of Diminishing RETURNS.” I’m guessing you noticed and probably thought about correcting me, but you didn’t. When I listened to the replay I cringed (just a teeny bit) and thought “That was SO sweet of Bob! I’m sure he noticed it, yet he didn’t mention it.” That’s just like YOU 🙂 Thanks!
Linda: 🙂 🙂 Sweet of you to say, awesome friend!
This one’s near and dear to me. We communicators are all about accuracy, so it’s an occupational hazard. I used to publicly correct people with wild abandon. I didn’t see it as a way to show my superiority. I simply didn’t like the way misinformation made me feel, and I thought the people around me deserved to know the truth. The result was that people would pounce on me if I slipped up. Nobody likes being corrected, even when it’s appropriate. So, like you said, save “being right” for circumstances that warrant it. Interestingly, I rubbed off on my daughter (what comes around…). She’s a grammar nut now, and loves to say “WERE” when I accidentally say, “If it was me….” *Sigh* — now I really know how it feels!
Mike: Thanks for sharing that. Great teaching! (And love the part about your daughter!) 🙂
I have been the recipient of correctIon, after correction, after correction, after correction, after correction etc… Did I mention that it happened often?
🙂 it flat out sucks.
Here’s one example: While on a shopping trip with a group of friends, one of the girls was trying on dresses and asking our opinions.
One cheeky lady kept poo pooing dresses that clearly made the young lady feel beautiful. I noticed the shoulders of the one trying on, began to slouch. I finally spoke up and asked her to retry one I had remembered noticing that she loved, but that got shot down by the one lady.
I went back to the dressing room and said, “God made Adam and Eve and you have Eve curves, so retry the ones you love and walk out with your head up and tell us how YOU feel in these dresses.”
She came out in one of the dresses that had been shot down. And this time was told,”Thats not you, you wont be comfortable in that one.”
But this time I stood up and asked, “How does this make you feel?” she answered positively and said she would add it to her “like pile.” 🙂 after this happened on a few dresses, it was clear that the young lady who was trying on, was going with how SHE felt about the dresses.
Cheeky lady, in a rude tone, asked me, “Why is EVERYTHING about feelings for you?” to which I answered, “Because how we make someone feel, is important. And in this case, she clearly loves the dresses you hate, so I stood up for her. You have grest taste and you always dress nicely, but this is not about what you would wear, it’s about what she would wear.”
Before I became a student of Burg, I didn’t know how to be kindly assertive. I always bowed to the criticism and I was dying inside. Now I stand and get to be an example to the next generation. I think there are times to make corrections and times not.
Oh and the young lady bought two of the dresses that the other lady hated. And I saw her in them and she wore them well. 🙂
Many years ago I had a new coworker who kept calling me Jill. I was afraid I’d embarrass her, so I didn’t correct her. She was so sweet and nice I didn’t have the heart to do it. After more than a month of this I finally decided to tell her that it was my boss who was Jill and I was Kim. As coworkers, it was important to properly identify each other. I tell this story because it’s about the only public situation in which I’ll correct someone. But I learned my lesson – I do it the first instance now, with a smile so they know I’m in no way offended by the mistake.
My rule is if it isn’t vitally important, who cares? Blessed are those who let MY mistakes go without comment, so the least I can do is return the favor!
Thanks Bob! I love these discussions.
Amy…you did it again! Thank you for sharing your amazing wisdom!
Wow Kim, I love ALL the lessons you shared in that! Thank you!
Throughout my life, I was always a bit of a “know-it-all,” until one day, when I encountered another “know-it-all” and discovered what it was like to be on the other side of things. For the first time, I saw how I was showing up- not as someone who really did know a lot, but as someone who was desperate for others to believe that I knew a lot.
Since then, I’ve found great joy in allowing others to shine and I don’t give up anything in the process. People still get that I am an expert and that I do, in fact, know a lot, but I no longer feel that I have to prove it.
I once read that good manners is about making other people comfortable. Good business should follow the same principle- correcting others publicly embarrasses them and certain doesn’t make anyone comfortable.
When appropriate, I correct clients in the privacy of our sessions, because that’s part of my job description- to enlighten and educate my clients so they can package and market their businesses more effectively. In a public setting, however, I prefer to avoid correcting others unless someone is in danger, a moral injustice is being done, or someone’s business might be seriously harmed by incorrect or faulty information. Even then, I would rather make the correction privately, if at all possible. Other than that, I might correct someone if I think they’re saying something that simply isn’t true about themselves.
It’s a wonderful, enlightening experiment, when you intentionally hold yourself back from correcting someone and observe the emotions that show up. It provides a great deal of insight into what’s really behind the correction, and ultimately can lead to real growth, as it did for me.
Thank you, Susan. What terrific teaching you just shared with us. No wonder you’re such a successful coach. Great!
*just a point of clarification- when I said that I might correct someone if I think they’re saying something that simply isn’t true about themselves, I meant that my FAVORITE time to correct someone is when they’re saying something NEGATIVE about themselves, as in, “I’m terrible at this or that,” and I have an opportunity to show them where they’ve been great at it. 🙂
Aw, Bob, you’re too kind. Thank you so much! 🙂
Hey Bob –
Wow – right through the heart!
Thanks for the reminder that being gracious is almost always better than being right.
You’re the man!
Thank YOU, Susan. And definitely knew what you meant, as you are an extremely encouraging person!
Pete, thank you, and great to hear from you, my friend. I miss seeing you at Dunkin’ Donuts on Sunday!!
Hi Bob. Once again, great advice. I love the lead-in phrase idea and practice it whenever I am present, practicing awareness. A teacher from my youth suggested a lead-in for the varied pronunciation of words, sometimes seen in business situations. She suggested we say, “Oh, is that how you pronounce that word? I’ve heard it as ‘abc’.” However, the important lesson I get out of what you shared above is: Does the correction have value? I appreciate your insight and gift of yet another tool for effective communications.
Thank you for sharing, Lisa. Always appreciate you! See you at next week’s event in Chicago!
It’s a terrible thing when you realize that your “attention to detail” and “broad knowledge base” really comes off as know-it-all… eeek! So I’m very conscious now to think about WHY and HOW I might correct someone, if at all.
– Most of the time, as many commenters have pointed out – we need say nothing at all.
– IF something is arguable (i.e. the merits of a diet program, etc.) then don’t say anything unless you want to argue!
– If they are factually wrong, then I don’t say anything unless their knowledge is harmful. (“Mm, Drano is delicious.” “Actually Bob, Drano is a caustic liquid.”) I really appreciate Amy Wells’ story as she was standing up against an opinion/fact that was harmful!
– If it’s something I really truly know a lot about and they are stating a misconception, then I will provide information. (“The Chamber of Commerce is part of government.” “Ahh, a lot of people believe that, but I’ve worked in the industry for 8 years and most chambers are independent of their city government.”)
But yes, for the most part, I work on exercising my tact and not my mouth! Thank you Bob for reminding us of this important skill.
Beth, truly excellent lessons. Thank you for sharing. Terrific!
I was once corrected from stage (room of 150+ people) when I stated that I had been using email for almost 30 years. The young man who did it looked like a fool to the rest in the room when he said “You’re lying” from the audience. My response might have been better “Yes, there was email before you were born” (he was 28 at the time, and someone I knew!), but it really threw me as I’d never been heckled before! He even came up afterward and told me again that I was wrong, when I again corrected him with “Yes, we had company-wide email before the Internet” in front of about 20 others. So not only once, but twice, he showed who he was, and lost credibility twice. Amazing.
Hi Beth, thank you for sharing that story, groaner as it is. How sad he did that. Rude to the point of wondering about his having any sense of manners; that aside from not understanding the basic concept we are discussing here. Actually, I liked your response to him. I’m sure you said it in a way that was funny without being insulting; a great testament to your self-control, considering that he called you a “liar.” Groan! Again, thank you for sharing with us!
I’ve learned (with slips) that time is greater spent listening & appreciating others than publicly correcting. Confidence is always better than humility not only for ourselves, but for everyone.
Bob: Thanks for this reminder. Having read Dale Carnegie’s book several times over the course of my life – this issue is one that strikes at the heart of many.
On a slightly different subject – what I particularly like about you and what always impresses me is how you take the time to comment back to so many on your blog. Speaking for all of us who enjoy reading and learning through your heart, Thank You for all you do and for the wisdom you share with us daily!
Have a Fantastic Day Bob!
Diane, all I can say to that is “Wow!” Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Randy, thank you. I agree; that was such an important lesson in the book. I know it helped me to see something in myself that very much needed correcting. And, thank YOU for your extremely kind second paragraph. Very appreciated!
You are way off the mark on this one.
Facts are facts. What would happen if we allow people to be wrong willy nillly? Being right is far more important than relationships or those other soft things like feelings, hurting people or resentment. Who needs other people as long as you are right.
You should always verify your facts via your smart phone and google before you say anything.
Wait a second… maybe I am wrong on this. Yes I am wrong.
Relationships trump facts; except when facts are more important. Consider wisely.
Two corrections for the price of one… thanks for the great posts. Happy Halloween.
Doug, LOL. I was gonna offer you a Jack Ass to carry all that rightness of yours.:-) he he Happy Halloween.
Doug: LOL!! (Not to mention, if only my fingers weren’t too big and clumsy for my smart phone!) 😉