Why Is It So Hard for Some People to Admit They Are Wrong

The following is a classic scene from the show “Happy Days” with Fonzie and Ralph:

That scene has stuck with me for the past 30-plus years.

Fonzie was a self-assured know-it-all, and like others of that type, had trouble admitting when he was wrong.

We’ve just gone through a Presidential campaign where a candidate would state some “facts” with a great deal of bravado, but many of those “facts” would soon be proven wrong. The candidate’s response was either to simply ignore what had been previously said, not admit to having said it, or double down and argue with even more bluster that it was a “fact”.

I’ve always admired people who could admit they have made a mistake, and I’ve always tried to follow such an approach.

One recent example was when a student asked me after class what was meant by all the talk about “carried interest” during the debates. I gave an answer off the top of my head, even though I wasn’t 100% sure that I was correct. So once I got back to my office I decided to look up more about carried interest, and I discovered that my answer to the student was way off. I quickly sent an email to the student apologizing for my incorrect answer, and provided him with a link to an article that explained the concept quite well. (Here’s the link if you are interested.)

It was an easy thing to do, and I think in the long-term it adds to the credibility of the individual offering the apology.

Unfortunately, it seems like the majority of people, like Fonzie, don’t like to admit when they are wrong. They may view it as a sign of weakness, or an embarrassment that they were wrong, or a a blow to their ego.

Let’s face it – everyone makes mistakes, everyone is wrong on occasion, so why pretend otherwise.

So I encourage all you Fonzies out there, start making the phrase, “I was wrong” part of your vocabulary.

Doing so makes you even cooler than the Fonz.