In this episode:
How we handle ourselves when we're wrong says a lot more about us than being wrong about something does. If we handle it with maturity and grace, that shows humility. But if we get defensive and argumentative, it shows emotional immaturity.
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"I was wrong."
As a couple, Phil and I have had plenty of learning in admitting to our mistakes. It still doesn’t come easy for me! I never like to admit I’m wrong.
As a perfectionist, I always hated getting questions wrong on a test, failing at something, losing, not knowing something.
I gravitated toward academics and arts because I’m a terrible athlete, and outside of having strength on my side, I have no coordination or speed. So most sports for me mean being picked last or being the loser in a match.
But in academics, I excelled. This is because if you can be right, you win.
So it isn’t surprising that it carries over into my relationships that I like to be right. I have learned over time that arguments don’t accomplish much, but I would defend my position to the end if it meant I didn’t have to say I was wrong.
This also leads to hurting the feelings of other people and not being great at apologizing, since it means admitting I’m not perfect. There are all sorts of ways to justify not admitting to wrong.
I think in relationships we have the wrong idea about being wrong. Being wrong doesn’t mean you are any of these things:
- Not valuable
It simply means you were wrong.
Having the facts wrong isn’t a big deal is you’re willing to learn the right ones. Smart phones have really changed this. Remember when you could have an argument and then no one knew what the right answer was? Now we can just pop open Google and settle it. But how to do you respond once someone reads the facts to you.
If your answer is, “Who cares anyway?” then you might have a problem.
The other challenge is that we might not feel it’s safe in a relationship to give in to someone else. Being wrong in a relationships is ok if we’re willing to mutually care for one another when one person admits they were wrong and the other forgives without using it as leverage to condemn or belittle the other. In a healthy relationship, both people are safe to admit to mistakes.
Saying I was wrong is often perceived as a weak thing that undermines respect. I would counter that with the idea that I have less respect for someone who cannot admit they are wrong even when all the evidence proves it.
Let’s talk about how relationships can be restored when we admit we are wrong.
My relationship with my husband is better than it ever has been after 30 years, and I think it’s partly because I’m slowly learning how to admit when I’m wrong. There is a sweetness in relationships where we can freely admit to our shortcomings and still be loved. But it has to be a mutual thing. If you’re like me and have a hard time getting to that place, your relationships will suffer. Some will fade away and you’ll never know what happened to that friendship.
If what’s happening in your heart and what’s happening in your mouth at the moment when it comes time to admit to being wrong, I hear you. There have been times in the past when my heart knows it. I know I need to apologize. I know I need to make the first move. But I can’t bring my mouth to say it.
Things to say if you choke on “I was wrong.”
That’s a valid point.
I’ll give you that…
I can see your side of this
Please do not say, “My bad.” That's such a dissmissive way of not really admitting that you're wrong.
Here are some other things to say:
I’m sorry. I don’t have any excuse for that.
Preface a phrase with, “I could be wrong about this…”
I’m not advocating for weasel words that are either passive or they shift the blame to someone else. Examples:
If you say so.
A mistake was made (passive)
At least I didn’t…
You took this all wrong
Remember that how you handle yourself when you’re wrong says a lot more about you than being wrong about something does. If you handle it with maturity and grace, that shows humility. But if you get defensive and argumentative, it shows emotional immaturity.
My recommendation this week is Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.
Knowing what emotional intelligence is and knowing how to use it to improve your life are two very different things. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a step-by-step program for increasing your emotional intelligence using the four core EQ skills—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management—to exceed your goals and achieve your fullest potential.
This book will also give you access to an online edition of an emotional intelligence test, the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal®. The test will show you where your EQ (emotional intelligence, like IQ – intelligence quotient) stands today and what you can do to begin maximizing it immediately. The new test will:
Pinpoint the emotional intelligence strategy that increase your EQ the most
Reveal the behaviors responsible for your EQ score
Allow a second test to measure how much your EQ has increased from your efforts
This book can be helpful if you don’t know at all where to begin with some of your emotional challenges in how you react to conflict, relationship struggles, etc.
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Michelle Rayburn is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure, as well as a small group Bible study to accompany the book. Learn more about these and her other books here. A sample chapter of the book and Bible study are available for free download.
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This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links.