I used to think that being wrong was unacceptable. I used to always feel bad about myself. Go figure, huh? Here’s the thing which I had missed: I wasn’t just inevitably wrong, I was unavoidably wrong. Which means that being wrong isn’t unacceptable – it can’t be helped. And in keeping with my philosophy that I don’t need to feel bad about things I can’t do anything to change, I don’t feel bad about myself all the time anymore. (At least not for being wrong, anyways.)
What I now see as unacceptable are all of the strategies we use to keep ourselves from having to face our own errors. I have found that learning to accept that I am inevitably wrong and self-correcting whenever possible makes me much happier and saner than carrying guilt and shame over my errors. Once being wrong itself is understood as a neutral thing, it’s not so scary and so threatening.
In fact, looked at properly being wrong becomes empowering. If I’m wrong, well, I can work on that. If someone else is wrong, I’m kind of at the mercy of whether they are mature enough to admit and deal with their own errors. I’ve gotten to the point that in a lot of situations I would prefer to be wrong because at least I can do something to fix and address the situation.
Even in the middle of an intense conflict, a person who comes right out and says, “I’m wrong” is disarming. It can take a lot of hostility out of a conflict. It immediately takes a problem off the table, forges a point of agreement and believe it or not, people usually respect someone who can admit their errors freely and without malice. it’s not something everyone can do.
There’s one other thing that being willing to be wrong does for you; it will often allow you to see what is going on around you more clearly. If you are in the middle of a conflict and you have admitted to your own error and are still being met with hostility, accusations, etc., then you can feel pretty comfortable knowing that the other person is the real problem driving the conflict. When you view admitting that you are wrong as much more of a positive than a negative outcome, it becomes easier to ward off self-doubt when you seem to be the only sane human being left. And honestly, once you’ve cleared out enough errors, you will find that you aren’t even wrong as often as you used to be!