Why Do I Assume I'm Wrong?
There is this fascinating interplay of thoughts that occur for me when I’m learning something new or I’m working in a group or, perhaps, I find myself in a bit of a pickle due to some miscommunication.
I immediately assume that I must be wrong.
Recently, I was working with Andrea – a new member of my administrative team – when something we were working on just wasn’t working right.
We were communicating via Skype or Zoom or one of those things, and she was teaching me about the new dashboard I was going to use to manage all my projects. But one component of the website just wasn’t working effectively. She could see my computer’s desktop, and we spent about 10 minutes trying to solve the problem and figure out what the heck I was doing wrong.
Not because she assumed that I had done something wrong, but because when I first contacted her for help, I set up a scenario where I was at fault by saying, “I’m screwing up.” That was how I presented it to her when I asked for support and, not yet knowing me that well, she took that as a fact and ran with it.
Now, when it comes to technology as a tool to support the architecture of a growing business, Andrea is a genius. She’s the fastest problem-solver I’ve ever seen, and her consultation and communication style suits me really well.
Yet after explaining my process numerous times, she was still unable to hit upon the exact problem that needed solving. But then she thought to stop listening to me and, instead, check the system itself, and…
Sure enough, it wasn’t me. It was a system glitch.
Because we are new to each other and I was so insistent that I was wrong, Andrea overrode the approach she would normally use and stepped right into my insistence, my absolute assurance, that I was the source of the problem.
We talked about this for a few minutes and had a couple of laughs, and then she conveyed to me that most of the strong, confident, intelligent businesswomen she works with often lead with the premise that they must be wrong. When it comes to matters they aren’t confident in, when something goes awry, they assume they must be making a mistake. I expect this is true for strong, confident, intelligent businessmen, too.
She said that they proactively take ownership of the fault even when who is at fault has not yet been determined. And in the end, the majority of the time, the fault doesn’t even belong to them. When we stumble into a situation like this, one so perfectly designed to teach us something about ourselves, to increase our self-awareness, it’s important to ask ourselves this question: Does this feel familiar to me?
When Andrea said, “Wait a minute, Beth. This isn’t something you were doing wrong. There’s a box in the system that isn’t checked off appropriately,” I said, “Holy crap! You mean this isn’t my fault?” She said, “Nope, it’s just a checkbox.” And I sat for a minute, noticing how this
moment felt so familiar.
There have been many times when things were going wrong, when there was a SNAFU, when something was disappointing me, when a service wasn’t performed to a level that I expected, that I immediately assumed I was wrong and stepped into owning the fault.
Does any of that sound familiar to you? If it does, it’s really important that you read these next
The danger in taking this stance, in this belief, this tendency,
is that it immediately takes away your power.
I’m not talking about ‘power’ as in your ability to get what you want, to manipulate others, or to be a strong fighter. I’m talking about your authentic power, the power that matters. The power that sustains us to continue to grow and succeed and be a force for change in the world. A power that endures – until we question our confidence.
Take a moment right now and connect with what it feels like in your body when you hold the thought: I’m at fault. What do you notice?
For me, I feel my shoulders droop and my solar plexus cave in a bit while my back curves and hunches. I feel my eyes cast downward, and I feel an uneasiness in my stomach that I identify as shame.
When I consider if this feels familiar or if I’ve felt it before, I realize – yep – this is how I felt when the brand new dishwasher I ordered was sitting in the warehouse and the salesman never called.
When I finally called him, he got big and energized and brushed off my concern that I hadn’t received a phone call. In response, I thought, Oh, he’s right. It’s my fault. I should have checked sooner.
Later on, I conveyed this story to my partner Janet – and I will tell you, she’s one woman that does not have this tendency of taking on the mantle of fault. She said, “That’s crazy. You’re a customer. You gave them the money. You purchased several items. Why are you feeling like you did something wrong? That’s just horrible customer service!” She was right. And that wasn’t the only, first, or last time I had that experience.
A year or so ago, I hired a company to develop a new website for me, and communication was tough. The owner was all ears and customer service through the sales process, but then was not listening, not following through, and not being responsive during the implementation process.
His tech guy kept creating webpages that weren’t representative of me and not aligned with the original scope of work the owner and I had discussed. I would refer to the scope of work and our agreement, and when I questioned the work that was being done, I was given answers that didn’t quite make sense to me.
And I’d assume, Oh, I’m not communicating clearly or I just don’t understand this process and feel that familiar shame energy and the folding in of my physical body. I would think, Oh, boy. I’m really messing up this process.
Then finally, one day, I’d had enough. The website was way overdue. The functionality was not what we discussed, and my sweet, polite emails stating, “I’m probably not communicating this effectively, but it seems that what is being created and what we agreed upon aren’t lining up,”
were all going unnoticed. Do you see how I took ownership of the blame?
When I’d had enough, I thought, What would Janet do? What would her energy look like? Why am I feeling ashamed that I paid someone money to do something I don’t know how to do, and they’re not doing what they said they would do?
Interestingly, after my energy shifted, I received a very apologetic email with an acknowledgment that my website project had, in fact, been a disaster. Not because of me but because the owner had become very ill and the tech guy he was depending on just wasn’t qualified. They offered to refund the majority of my money, which I gladly accepted. I have a long list of stories like these, times I gave away my confidence, my power, my belief in myself because I made an assumption and thought, Gosh, I must be the one who’s wrong here. I must have screwed something up. I must not be understanding.
I’m not suggesting that I don’t ever have a part in miscommunication or problematic interchanges! I’m sharing what my project manager, Andrea, shined a spotlight on – that strong, confident, intelligent women (and I’d say the same for men) diminish their power and their presence by extending apology where none is needed. Through her work, she sees this pattern repeated, and it blows her away every time.
Does any of this feel familiar to you? Are there times when you notice yourself backing up in a negotiation or taking the blame for something in order to smooth it over? Do you ever wonder what you did to make things go sideways, even when you’re pretty certain you did everything pretty well?
My biggest question for you – though mostly for me – is: Has stepping into the blame by proactively offering an apology to smooth things over become such a habitual pattern that it is now an unconscious reaction? Because it has for me.
If you notice this in your own life, download my 10 Strategies to Increase Confidence for simple steps and practical ideas. In this episode, you heard about how we give away our power and confidence with unnecessary apologies. With this freebie, you’ll find 10 strategies for building them up with simple shifts in behaviors. Download the list and learn how asking for help, staying out of the past, spending time alone, simply listening, and more can change how others see you and how you see yourself.
It’s time to Let Go of That Rock, to stand in your strength and your confidence, to come back into balance, and to no longer concede when concession isn’t needed.
Thanks for reading,