Is admitting a mistake a sign of weakness?
By Frederick Mordi
The story is told of a professor who once required his students to present oral readings in class, while he listened. When it came to the turn of a certain student, he stood up just like the others, and held his book in his left hand.
Before he could read, the professor barked at him: “Take your book in your right hand, and be seated!”
The student flinched at the professor’s harsh tone. The looks on the faces of his class mates seemed to suggest something was amiss. But the professor was too angry to take note of the body language of his students. He took serious offence at what he considered a disrespectful gesture on the part of the student.
The other students fidgeted in their seats as the young man in question raised up his right arm, awkwardly. His arm ended at the wrist. The right hand was missing. The professor struggled to contain his emotions. It was obvious that he had never felt so embarrassed all his life. Without a word, he walked up to the student and hugged him. He could not stop the tears from rolling down his cheek.
“I never knew about it,” he said, “please, will you forgive me?”
It is said that this singular act of remorse made a lasting impact on the student. But it often takes a great deal of humility, maturity, and even courage, for most people to admit it when they are in the wrong, probably because they feel it is a sign of weakness. Admitting it when you are wrong is one of the elements in the time-honoured principles of human relations.
Aaron DeCamp reinforces this view: “Admitting your mistakes is not a sign of weakness. It shows you have the courage to know your wrong, and that you have become stronger.”
John Maxwell puts it this way: “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”
The world will be a better place if people start to act like that professor.
14 Principles of Human Relations
H Have self-confidence
U Understand the viewpoint of others
M Make yourself the friend of all
A Admit it when you are wrong
N Never make promises you cannot keep
R Respect and courtesy are important
E Explain thoroughly
L Look, listen and learn
A Avoid arguments
T Try to be approachable and sociable
I Insist on selfless service to the community
O Others first, self last
N Never criticize in public
S Stress and positive always