One of the hardest phrases for a lot of people, myself included, to say is “I was wrong”. Closely followed by, “I didn’t know that” or, “I don’t know”. I’ve often found myself making excuses or not wanting to admit a mistake, or even feeling a completely irrational sense of resentment when someone ends up knowing more about a subject than me.
This is obviously silly. It gets in the way of learning new things. It also usually backfires, making other people respect you less.
So how do you break this cycle?
In college, wary of the stereotype of the freshman that thinks they know everything, I decided to actively look for a chance to say the words “I don’t know” and “I was wrong about that” every day. It felt almost physically uncomfortable at first, especially when there was a teacher or an attractive girl nearby. But it got easier over time. Actively looking for opportunities to admit mistakes or ignorance helped overcome the internal bias and pride.
As a result, my teams started treating me with more respect. They became more willing to trust my opinion, because I was willing to admit ignorance and mistakes. When you treat every subject like you’re an expert on it, people can’t really trust you ever know what you’re talking about. If you’re willing to admit when you’re wrong, people are more likely to listen to you when you believe you’re right. When you’re willing to say the words, “I don’t know” people are more likely to listen to you when you say the words, “I know how to do this”.
Even now I don’t know if I say these phrases enough. Going to practice a bit.
“I don’t know.”
“I was wrong.”