Sunday, July 31, 2016

What To Do When You're Wrong

Perfection. It seems that many of us believe some things can be done perfectly—always and without exception. There is no doubt that in some occupations or pursuits, perfection is the clear standard and objective set by the leaders; these areas might include healthcare, air transportation, and emergency services.

Most of us, it seems, would be happy with getting things right most of the time and then declaring it a win. Probably all musical performers, teachers, sales professionals, and managers, for example, realize that it would be nice for everything to work out perfectly; since that’s impossible, their expectations and goals are less than (but not far from) 100% perfection.

It is generally accepted by most people, though, that perfection in everything we do is impossible. I agree, and I want to see how this principle affects us when we make mistakes in our daily communication with others. When communicating, most of us err several times a day without fail; it happens, and there is no way to consistently achieve 100% error-free days—though I guess it’s possible if you don’t communicate in any way with anyone.

Barring this exception, please realize you and I are going to make mistakes in all areas of our lives, and the realistic goals are to strive to do the best we can, learn from our mistakes, and get better at what we do.

In today’s post, I will look at some practical solutions that you can use after realizing you made a communication mistake. That is, what do you do when you say something that is dumb or wrong, or write something that is in error? I offer three tips.

1. Increase your chances of getting things right the first time. It makes sense to aim before you fire. In other words, prepare well and think as you write something that is to be emailed or sent to others; and practice and think before you speak.

• Instructional courses are available that teach the minutiae of writing, speaking, interpersonal communication, and all things related. In addition to a course or seminar, consider other low- or no-cost alternatives such as independent self-study and learning, targeted readings, and local clubs that exist solely to improve your writing or speaking skills.

• Before speaking, rehearse what you’re going to say—even if you do so only in your thoughts.

• Take a moment and think before you write or say something. The following paragraph is taken from my January 31, 2016 blog post, which addressed the importance of being clear in communication:

"Think about what you want to communicate and break the message down into its key points. These ideas, without any doubt in your mind, are what you want others to know from you. Make it simple by thinking about what you want to write or say before you communicate it. A clear communication has the following characteristics: understandable, intelligible, obvious, unambiguous, coherent, and straightforward."

2. If it’s wrong, fix it. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, correct it.

• Acknowledge your error immediately: electronically, by phone, or in person depending on the situation. Apologize if appropriate. Since everyone makes mistakes, it’s not the end of the world. 

• Fix the incorrect message by sending the correct information, correcting the original-but-wrong message, or restating what you originally said with different words that are more accurate.

3. Learn from your mistake. A truth believed by many is that humans must learn from their mistakes in order to get better. This principle is applicable as we make communication errors.

Take a moment and reflect on what you did, why you did it that way, and what lessons you learned in the process. Do this every time you make a communication mistake.

This contemplation will help you the next time you are in a similar situation, and you will make fewer mistakes. Soon, you will almost be perfect.

Thanks for checking in with me today, I appreciate it, and please bookmark my blog for easy reference.

Randall Ponder, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA        @randallponder 

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