Change Your Life by Learning How to Admit You're Wrong


We all know the uncomfortable feeling of suddenly realizing that mistakes have been made, and the mistakes were our own. That feeling is almost always followed by the realization that there's a choice to make. You can admit the mistake, and take whatever consequences might be forthcoming, or you can try to hide your culpability and hope that no one notices. (See also: Ways to Improve Your Decision-Making Skills)

It usually feels a lot easier to hide the truth. There's something about being human that makes us hesitate to admit fault, even when it's obvious to us and to everyone else that we screwed up.

However, what is easy isn't always right. In fact, admitting you are wrong can change the way others relate to you, and can make you a stronger leader than you've ever been before.

Build Relationships

Why in the world would telling the truth, even when it means saying you're wrong, make your life better?

Trust is basic to any relationship, and you engender trust when you admit you're wrong. Think about it. When you know that someone is wrong but they won't admit it, that relationship doesn't feel very good. In fact, it feels like being right is more important to that person than having an honest, open relationship with you.

Don't be that person.

When you can admit that you're wrong, you show others that you value truth and having good relationships over never being wrong. That not only makes you trustworthy, but also makes you approachable, because others know that they can admit their mistakes to you. (See also: Make Friends and Be Happy)

When you admit that you're wrong, you also prove wrong the common belief that admitting mistakes makes you weak. In fact, it's not admitting your mistakes that weakens you as a leader, and weakens your entire organization (whether that is a business, a country, or a family).

Not acknowledging your mistakes means that you have to find someone else to blame for whatever goes wrong. This means that you end up playing a blame game with employees, family members, neighbors, and this undermines your relationships with them. When someone knows that whatever happened wasn't their fault and you persist in blaming them anyway, you are the one who looks like an uncaring fool.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Making mistakes is human. Since we aren't all-knowing or all-powerful, sometimes we just don't have either the insight or the ability (or both!) to avoid misjudging a situation and, therefore, taking it on from the wrong direction.

However, there's a difference between letting yourself make mistakes and doing the same wrong thing over and over again. Mistakes are human, but they are also learning experiences, and we can improve our responses the next time.

When we admit that we are wrong, that we have actually made a mistake, we state out loud the problem that we have created and we take responsibility for it. Both of these things make it less likely that we will make that mistake next time. Articulating it helps us define what actually went wrong, and taking responsibility motivates us to do better next time. (See also: How to Learn From Your Mistakes)

Gain Respect

When people see you being honest and learning from your mistakes, they will gain new respect for you. We all know that everyone makes mistakes, and that sinking feeling when we realize that we are responsible for tanking a particular situation. And so we all know how much courage it takes to say, "I was wrong. I'm sorry."

Think about other people who you have seen admit their fault. I remember a couple of situations. They are vivid in my mind, even though they happened years ago, and I deeply admire the people who I saw stand up, admit they were wrong, and then work to make changes.

If you want to stand out, whether it's at work, among friends, or at home, you won't do it by putting on a veneer of perfection. Instead, admit it when you're wrong. Ask for forgiveness. Let others see you working to change. If you are sincere in your apology and diligent in your efforts to improve for the future, the people around you will notice and they will esteem you for it.

Saying that you're wrong means that you are willing to earn the respect of the people around you, rather than demanding it along with demanding that they live in your alternate version of reality.

How to Admit You're Wrong

Now that you have a few solid reasons to think that admitting it when you're wrong might be a good idea, it's time to think about how you might go about doing that. After all, even when you can say that it is GOOD to admit that you're wrong, it's still a HARD thing to do. (See also: 7 Steps to Fix Any Mistake)

1. Admit the Truth to Yourself

Always start by telling yourself the truth. If you can't say, in your own heart, that you were wrong, then any apology you give will feel insincere to the recipient. In addition, working this out for yourself first gives you time to work through any issues you might have with apologizing. You have a chance to tell yourself the truth, that it's human to be wrong, and you are no more and no less than human. There's not something wrong with you just because you made a mistake.

2. Be Simple and Clear

The easiest way to admit you're wrong is to say, "I was wrong, and I'm sorry." However, it's best to go beyond this and add specifics about what you're sorry for, so that both parties know exactly what is being discussed. Sometimes, what you're sorry for isn't where someone else thought you went wrong, and so the situation will need more thought and discussion before it can be resolved.

Some people like to try to admit that they are wrong without actually saying, "I'm sorry." This can still be effective, but the easiest way to make it clear that you are admitting you are wrong is to actually say those two, difficult words.

3. Discuss What Will Be Different

Once you've admitted your fault, talk about how you plan to do things differently in the future. This shows that you have taken your mistake seriously and that you have thought through how things need to be different in the future.

This holds true no matter what kind of mistake you have made. If you hurt someone with your words, talk about how you will speak differently next time. If you made a mistake at work, talk about the checks you have put in place so that the same thing doesn't happen again. No matter how big of a mistake you've made, there are always steps you can take to make sure it doesn't happen again.

You might think that there is more to it than these three steps, but the truth is that the actual act of admitting you are wrong is pretty easy. It's the emotional processes behind it that can make it feel like such a monumental task. The more you practice this, though, the easier it will get to know when you are wrong, acknowledge it to yourself, apologize, and make changes for the future.

How do you admit you're wrong? Do the right thing and let us know in comments!

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Guest's picture

Great post! Learn from our mistakes and taking responsibility motivates us to do better next time!Thank you!

Guest's picture

I need to admit I made a wrong call at work. I knew I was wrong straight away and was thinking of excuses to give to a manager later on, but I'm no good at lying to people, so it was making me nervey. Staying truthful and moving on with an apology feels better to do. Hopefully i can get on with my apology to the person concerned and gain a little respect back as I'm not always doing dumb things.