"I was wrong." The actual words aren't complicated, so why are they so hard to say? The reality is that many people find it extremely difficult to say these words. Most of us have encountered someone who will never admit to being wrong. Many of us are that person, even if just in one particular area of our life.
Most of us don't struggle with generic expressions of error, like "Nobody is perfect," or "Everyone makes mistakes." While both of these statements are true, they're also detached and impersonal. They describe people in general, not ourselves as individuals. You can hide behind these statements without ever taking personal responsibility for your actions. Whereas explicitly stating "I was wrong" is different
Personal responsibility vs. deflecting.
Statements like "I was wrong" or "I made a mistake" are very personal. You're no longer talking about people in general; you're talking about yourself as an individual. You're taking personal responsibility for yourself and your behaviour, instead of deflecting and describing people's behaviour in general.
So why is it so difficult for people to take personal responsibility and admit when they're wrong or they've made a mistake? It's important to note that for some people, it isn't difficult at all; they simply admit their error and move on. Generally speaking, if this is the example someone saw while growing up, they'll likely adopt it themselves without giving it a second thought.
Your household growing up shapes what is "normal" to you.
However, if you grew up in a household where your parents were "always right" even when they were clearly in the wrong or made a mistake, that likely had a major impact in shaping what's "normal" to you. If you weren't surrounded by people who were comfortable and willing to admit when they were wrong, you might find that this mindset doesn't come naturally to you. If you grew up in a household where being right was of paramount importance in terms of maintaining dignity and self-respect, it's easy to internalize this, thus carrying it into your own adult life.
Admitting that we're wrong can leave us feeling vulnerable and defenseless. This is especially true when we identify with the issue in question, or we equate our self-worth and value with the matter in some way. Under these circumstances, admitting that we're wrong can actually feel quite threatening, as something inside of us perceives a potential danger or loss that we want to avoid.
In reality, there's no danger or loss in admitting that we're wrong. It doesn't change who we are, our value, or our self-worth. Furthermore, admitting that we're wrong brings enormous benefits, as it paves the way for us to learn, grow, and consider things from a different viewpoint.
Being wrong is not a statement about your identity, character, or worth.
So what can you do if you struggle with admitting when you're wrong? Recognize that being wrong on a particular issue is not a statement about your identity, character, or worth. You can be wrong about something and still be a decent, worthy person. As you meditate on this and consciously make the distinction, you'll find that it becomes easier to admit when you're wrong.
Similarly, work on becoming more aware of the areas where you tend to identify strongly with an opinion or stance. Recognize that your opinion or stance is not you. Remind yourself that you're free to reconsider or modify your opinion/stance without "losing" anything. If you find yourself having a strong emotional response, pause and ask yourself: "If I were wrong about this, why exactly would that be a problem? What exactly would I lose?"
Take an empowering position by bringing things out into the open.
When we try to avoid or hide from something, it's easy for our imagination to blow it way out of proportion. This can lead to us adopting a disempowering, defensive position. Instead, take an empowering, offensive position by bringing things out into the open.
For instance, if you find yourself in a heated disagreement with someone, try asking the person, "Am I missing something here?" Asking that question demonstrates humility and gives the other party permission to bring things to your attention that you might not notice otherwise. At the same time, it conveys confidence, as you're communicating that you're secure enough to handle being shown where you might be wrong or misguided. By bringing things into the open in this way, you empower yourself and strengthen the relationship.
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