When was the last time you were wrong?

Kathryn Shulz, a writer for the New York magazine speaks on this topic of being wrong in her Ted Talk. Kathryn has been researching the social phenomenon of being wrong for about five years, and has multiple insights to this topic.

Firstly, what is brought up is the fact that we as humans are socialized to dislike being wrong, however what many people do not think through is that we are actually attempting to avoid the realization that we are wrong. Aside from that realization, regardless of whether or not we are wrong, people will work to hold their beliefs as infallible truths.

This feeling of being right, regardless of reality is what Kathryn refers to as Error Blindness, as humans don’t have many internal cues to inform us to when we are actually wrong. To add to this point, Kathryn brings up how many individuals make an assumption that if there is something wrong in our beliefs, then there is something wrong with us. Therefore, believing oneself to be right benefits one’s view of self.

The biggest reason that Kathryn sees a problem with this desire to be right is what it causes people to do to the contradicting beliefs. Specifically there are three assumptions we make to avoid cognitive dissonance when others disagree with us.

  1. Ignorance assumption (they must be ignorant)
  2. Idiocracy assumption (they must be idiots)
  3. The evil assumption (they know the truth but choose to distort it)   

Ultimately, the point Kathryn wants to drive home is that being wrong is part of the human experience. And that for humans to be able to discover what is around us, we need to be able to understand the universe outside of our sense of being right.

So what does this mean for coaches? There’s a gap in many individuals in how many times they make mistakes and are wrong, when compared to how comfortable people are with being wrong. And ultimately, being uncomfortable with being wrong can also hurt interpersonal relationships when one is not aligned with their peers. Helping coach clients on how to accept their ability to be human and be wrong can help them overcome the error blindness Kathryn Shulz speaks about.

IOC's Tips of the Week are authored by Austin Matzelle