Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Improve Relationships - Do Not Correct Others

Have you ever misspoken, only to have someone correct you right away? Are you thankful that the person cared enough to point out your error to everyone within earshot? Some people just can’t resist pointing out other people’s errors, regardless of who’s present and how minuscule the error is.

I once knew someone that would jump at the chance to correct everyone at every chance he could. From grammatical errors to pronunciation mistakes to misspellings in email messages, this guy couldn’t resist adding his two cents and showing everyone how smart he was and how dumb everyone else was. How did people like this person? They hated him.

You might think that “hate” is too strong a word or inaccurate but it was the word most commonly used to describe this person by the folks who fell victim to his corrective-ness. It goes to show you that 1: people don’t like being corrected in public and 2: this guy would have been much better off just keeping his mouth shut.

From elementary school all the way up through adulthood, I’ve come across people that felt the need to correct others. Some had seemingly innocent intentions while others were excited at the opportunity to show everyone present that they were smarter than someone else. Regardless of their intentions, what they’ve accomplished through their corrections has ranged from ticking someone off to ruining a friendship.

Why people don’t like to be corrected:

First of all, it’s embarrassing to have someone point out your error; especially in front of a group (this is why many people are deathly afraid of public speaking). In many cases, the error is minor enough that most of the people listening didn’t catch it and the ones that did still understood the point. For example, you might be talking about a movie and say that you liked the Ferrari that the main character drove and someone might say “don’t you mean Lamborghini?” As a car fanatic that loves Italian sports cars, I can say that the cars are quite different but in the context of the conversation, everyone gets the point.

If someone was giving directions and said to take Maple Street instead of Oak Street, then that’s a good reason for correcting them. But pointing out in public that someone used incorrect grammar, pronounced a word wrong or said one thing but meant another is tactless – it adds no value to the conversation and all it does is embarrass the speaker.

Why people correct others:

Some people get their kicks and feel powerful by cutting others down so this correction can sometimes be considered a form of bullying. Others are honestly trying to help, but just lack the tact for doing it right. And still others are perfectionists and can’t help themselves. You’ve probably been in group conversations where someone had made the same mistake over and over again. I can think of a few of these such situations where everyone knew the person was making a mistake but still got the point, yet someone in an effort to help the person, pointed out the mistake and therefore embarrassed the person. Is it more embarrassing to realize you made a mistake that some people may have caught after the fact or to have someone point it out mid-conversation so that you know everyone listening now knows you made the mistake? I’d say the latter is much more embarrassing.

How to correct someone:

If it’s something small and there’s no harm done, pretend it never happened. I’ve seen people start to correct themselves but before they could, someone else jumped in to do it for them. So give the person at least a sentence or two to discover and correct the mistake on their own. If they keep making the mistake, then you might want to point it out in private. If the mistake they’re making can cause a problem (such as bad advice or wrong directions), then you can step in right away.

In either case, you want to make sure you handle it carefully. Here are some tips:

Don’t make a big issue out of it. Casually refer back to the conversation and then correct yourself.

Say something like “yeah, I get them mixed up too and people are always correcting me.”

If you have good rapport with the person, make a joke out of it but do so in a delicate manner.

Never be harsh, condescending or say anything that would hurt the other person’s feelings.

Again, with the exception of your own school-aged children (and even then, be polite when doing so), avoid the temptation of correcting people over minor mistakes. We’re all human and we all make mistakes from time to time so treat it the way you’d want others to treat you if you made a mistake.

[from: Overnight Sensation]

1 comment:

'Kid' said...

We had a teacher who liked me and was very nice to us and invited me to read her stories, 'cos I asked her Qns about her background - she was very funny and wickedly intelligent. I loved telling her stuff and listening to her. I told her once I wanted to be a Prvte Investigator during recess. She went back into class and in her lecture stated to us she 'always wanted to be a privte detective'. I thoughtlessly, corrected her phraseology in an email, thinking I was just talking terminology! Advised her of the 'accurate' use of the term 'detective' in US and Australia. I wondered later why her tune towards me was changing drastically! No surprise! I am sure I corrected her or did something stupid like that a few times. In my search to understand, a girl friend of mine suggested to me I 'corrected her' asking 'why I did it'. The penny dropped for me. I figured at the time the teacher wouldn't have apreciated it but I had already sent the email. I can't speak properly to people I really care about - who are important to me - I understand this to be from losing some of my family very young. This teacher had told us of her own personal interests and her personal losses. I was too scared to tell her that I write too, as I thought she may think I was mocking her. I think she started to think I was a brat after the email. She was so much fun and very good with us- I still got great grades - a real Mr Chips! - she really cares about people & is very sensitive - to the point where I was inspired to write a mini-operetta for her. The students encouraged me to give it to her and so we presented it at end of semester from all of us. Thank you Relationship Clinic for showing me a nicer way of being and the effects poor actions can have on others. I hope one day I can smile with my teacher again and talk to her relaxed, without being frightened of what she may do to me........'Kid'