Talk About Your Own Mistakes First
When I am trying to communicate an idea, my most common mistake is to say too little. When on the receiving end of communication, I admire those who can communicate clearly and concisely. So, in the pursuit of clarity and concision I often go too far, failing to communicate as fully as the recipient needs. Ultimately, the clarity for which I was striving is not achieved, and in fact I need to spend more effort explaining. So of course I keep trying to work on that. And still, I am more likely to say too little than to say too much.
At one of my former employers we used to keep track of the stocks we sold for one year after the sale. We would track whether it outperformed relative to the benchmark, relative to all of the choices we were considering as a replacement, and relative to the stock that we actually replaced it with. When the stock we sold outperformed its replacement, we knew we had sold too soon. We also tried to determine when we sold too late, as well as when we either bought too early or too late. We knew we would be making mistakes. The question was whether we kept making the same mistake. If we are aware that two thirds of the time we are selling too soon, we can try to be more confident in the stocks we own and less eager to replace them with the shiny new one.
In the growth mindset, our mistakes are simply milestones on our path to improvement. In the fixed mindset, we think of them as failures. Individually, those who have adopted the growth mindset can view their mistakes as development opportunities.
When dealing with others, however, we don't always know that person's mindset. Will they view criticism as a failure and give up? Or will they view it as a learning opportunity? Much like my own recurring communication shortcoming, the issue arises that at least two parties are involved in the conversation and each may interpret things differently. What I view as clear and concise communication you might perceive as confusing thought fragments. What I view as a helpful suggestion you might perceive as a mean-spirited complaint.
As is often the case when it comes to interpersonal relations, Dale Carnegie has a solution: Talk about your own mistakes first. By demonstrating that you view mistakes as the natural byproduct of improvement you can help pre-suade the recipient into accepting a similar viewpoint, and allow them to be more receptive to the advice. Your communication can thus be received as it was intended.
And while we are on that subject, how am I doing? In this post did I once again err on the side of too little, or have I overcompensated and explained too much?
Photo by Keith Avery