If it hasn’t happened already, there will be many times in your career when you’re simply wrong. When you’ve fought hard for or against something only to realize it was the wrong call. Imagine a path that divides into two and you have to choose which way to go. The choice is deciding whether to admit to others that you were wrong, or to double-down on your decision. It’s times like this that define your future in more ways than you might think. One path can seriously tarnish your reputation and the other push you towards real career and personal growth.
I had to deal with one of these situations last year, and it was really humbling. I had fought against a decision that I thought would hurt my team and cause more problems than benefit. I listened to the other point of view, but I was sure that it was a bad idea. Begrudging, I finally caved and went along with it, thinking that I’d just watch it fail. After a few months, however, it turned out that I was wrong. The decision was actually working, and I realized I was wrong in opposing it. I had a dilemma now, because everyone knew I didn’t want to go along with it. Would I credit the person who pushed for it, or would I just ignore the fact that I was dead wrong?
Why Acknowledging When you’re Wrong is a Good Thing
The first thing to understand is that admitting fault isn’t going to hurt you. It may make you feel lousy, but in almost all scenarios it’ll make the people around you respect you even more. If you refuse to acknowledge when you’re wrong, you’ll end up having a tainted reputation and lowered self-confidence (sometimes unconsciously). This refusal opens you up to being more vulnerable and with your reputation deteriorating, you slowly lose your most valuable asset.
There are tons of benefits to being mature and acknowledging your mistakes. I’m sure you can think of even more than me, but here’s a list that I know from personal experience are true.
10 Ways Admitting your Mistakes Helps You
- It gives you credibility
- It defuses existing tension
- It will build your confidence
- It makes you look more mature
- It makes people want to listen to you
- It erases the mistake in the eyes of people
- It allows you to benefit from your mistakes
- It humbles you, making you a stronger person
- It will gain you the respect of those around you
- It gives you the validity to continue questioning
So the question really is, why do some people not want to admit that they’re wrong? In almost all cases it’s either because of pride or because they’re scared of what might happen to them as a result. If it’s pride, then sooner or later you’ll end up falling from the lofty pedestal you put yourself on. If it’s because you’re scared, then just know that it the end you’ll be better off.
Another Story: My Huge Mistake
I have another story of when I did something stupid at work and had to admit and even apologize for it. We had an important meeting with a potential client from a major hotel brand. We were just wrapping up work with one of their competitors, however, and that posed a potential conflict. My boss had told me not to bring it up because we’d be finished with our contract well before we started with the new client. The meeting went really well, but at the end we started discussing the technical solutions we could provide for them. They wanted to understand our experience, and the absent-minded side of me decided to talk about all the experience we’ve had working with hotel companies, particularly our current project.
Needless to say, my boss’s face turned pale and the room went silent. All of the partners from our firm were furious with me and I tried my best to spin what I was saying so the new client wouldn’t get spooked. I left that meeting feeling terrible and knowing I had seriously jeopardize a major deal. Not only that, I knew the partners would question whether to include me in any future client meetings.
Even writing about this story makes me feel lousy, and this was years ago. You may not have had this same issue, but I’m sure you’ve had something similar, where you wish you could just take back the last sentence you spoke or turn back a decision you made.
The Happy Ending
So what did I do? In the first story, I ended up just acknowledging that my opposition to the idea was wrong and that it turned out to be a really good one. I told this to my team and to the person who originally proposed it, letting them personally know they were right. It was hard, but the burden of having been wrong was lifted from my shoulders and it’s no longer an issue anymore. I was wrong, but I acknowledged it and have grown from that experience. I gained more than I lost and it allows people to trust that I won’t stick with something that’s bad just to save face.
In the second story, I spent part of the day feeling so terrible that I had to leave the office to clear my mind. When I came back, I went straight to the managing partner’s office and apologized for being careless with discussing the work we did with the other client. I told him I understood why I wasn’t supposed to do it and it just slipped out. He was upset with me at first, but once I was done, he was happy that I had “manned up” and taken responsibility. I was surprised when later he personally went to the other partners and my boss to tell them I had apologized. When they heard it from him, they all went from thinking poorly of me, to actually thinking highly. I really saved my reputation and my seat at the table with a simple acknowledgement of fault.
This post ended up getting long, but I wanted to include some real life personal stories to drill the point in. If you have a lingering issue that you didn’t apologize for or admit your fault, go fix it today. You’ll feel a lot better and you’ll be putting your future above your past. That’s the only real way to grow in your self-assuredness and influence.
Credit: Feature image by Freepik
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