What to Do When You Realize You’ve Made a Mistake


Originally published Feb. 11, 2019 on HBR.org.

In her book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, author Kathryn Schulz writes, “Our love of being right is best understood as our fear of being wrong.” In other words, our commitment to believing that we know exactly what’s happening and why, and what to do about it, is reinforced by us trying very, very hard not to think about this possibility: “What if I’m making a mistake?” Or perhaps, even worse, “What if I already made one?”

For many of us, finding out that we were wrong can feel like a threat to our self-identity. Researchers Caroline Bartel, co-director of the Center for Leadership Excellence at the McCombs School of Business, and Jane Dutton, co-founder of the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business, explain that, in both our words and deeds, we are constantly expressing how we see ourselves — and how we want others to see us. This is called “identity claiming.” And when we’re wrong, we experience the pain of realizing that the identity we may have claimed for ourselves — an expert, the go-to guru, etc. — has suffered a blow. Continue reading at HBR.org…

Deborah Grayson Riegel Deborah Grayson Riegel is an executive coach and Director of Learning with The Boda Group. Deborah has coached hundreds of thousands of professionals to communicate more effectively in industries ranging from advertising, financial services, and government to non-profits, pharmaceuticals, and technology. Deborah is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Columbia University, and an instructor of Management Communication at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Learn more about Deborah or get in touch.