Let’s Advertise Our Mistakes

February 7, 2017 - 4 minutes read

Chapter three in my book People Tools for Business is entitled, “Advertise Your Mistakes.”

On the internationally televised Miss Universe program a little more than a year ago Steve Harvey made a mistake – a big one.  He misread the notes handed to him and named the wrong contestant as the winner.

The new “Miss Universe” was overjoyed. She was crowned, consoled the runner up, and the audience cheered.  Steve Harvey left the stage.  A minute later he returned, motioned to the audience to stop their applause, and admitted to everyone that he had made a mistake.  The runner up was actually the winner.

Oops. Huge mistake.  Millions of viewers were watching. Maybe Steve was tempted, as many of us might have been, to run out of the auditorium and disappear.  But, to his credit, he returned and ‘fessed’ up.

Steve, the consummate comedian, even took his mistake one step further.  He sent out Christmas Cards with a photo of him holding his hands up with a “V”.  His greeting was, “Happy Easter.”

Last week I made a mistake.  In my blog entitled, “Give a Reason,” I referred to a study I had read years ago. I wrote, “The study concluded that you have more success achieving your goals with people if you give them a reason for what you are doing.”

It turns out that my statement was wrong.  Fortunately, one of my readers is a respected researcher in the field and he contacted me about my error.  He wrote:

Thought I might pass along that the real message to Ellen Langer’s photocopy study to which you refer is not that giving a valid reason leads to greater compliance—but rather that using the trigger word “because” does so.  Saying “Can I use the copy machine BECAUSE I need to make some copies” (a vacuous reason provided after the trigger word) actually leads to as many people letting the requester cut ahead as when the reason is meaningful (“BECAUSE I’m in a hurry”) but having no trigger word (“Can I use the copy machine. I have five copies.”) led to only around half complying.

I’m advertising the mistake I made in last week’s blog for the following reasons.

  1. I’m practicing what I preach.
  2. I want to provide accurate information to you, not misinformation.
  3. I’m alerting all of us not to believe everything we read.
  4. I’m reminding myself and you to recognize our limitations and be careful in passing along information that we believe to be accurate without verifying.

Beyond this, it’s important for each of us to recognize who we really are – our strengths, our weaknesses, our special insights, and our blind spots.  That’s the only way we can fully live our unique lives.

And we all need to trust each other.  Admitting (or, even better, advertising) our mistakes is essential to establishing and maintaining trust.

Alan

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