Never Be Wrong Again
Estimated Lesson Time: 4 minutes
High self-confidence and success are often directly related. As you become more and more successful, your self-confidence increases, sometimes to the point where you believe you are right in just about everything you do and say. Very often, you may be right, but when you are wrong, and you project a cocky attitude, others will be all over you for it.
What if, through careful use of words, you could always be right and never be wrong again? How would that help you in your personal life? How about your professional life? This technique is not a magic one that will make you smarter, but it is simply a communication technique that can help you to articulate your beliefs and opinions better and make it impossible for others to disagree with you. See if you can disagree with these statements:
I believe the sky is green.
In my opinion, people from Boston smell like donuts.
You may know, or at least you may think you know, that the sky is blue. You may have never smelled donuts on people from Boston, but you cannot say that those statements are wrong. Why? Because the statements use words that express opinion or belief, which, assuming one is not lying, cannot be wrong. For example, the person making the first statement is not saying the sky is green, they are saying they believe the sky is green. You can certainly question their belief and even present them with facts in order to change their belief, but you cannot say that they are wrong for their belief.
Stating beliefs, opinions, or facts you are unsure of (thus they are beliefs) in a way that makes it obvious it is your belief or opinion, versus stating a belief or opinion as a fact, is a habit of successful communicators. Here are some reasons why this is such an important technique:
- Avoid arguments. One cannot argue with your beliefs or opinions when clearly stated as such. Often people disagree with an opinion when stated as a fact just by reaction.
- Avoid animosity. If you state an opinion as a fact, whether you are right or wrong, if the person you are making the statement to has a different opinion, you have created friction and possible animosity.
- Project self-confidence and not cockiness. People are labeled “cocky” when they state opinions and beliefs as facts.
- Prevent disagreement. Win more debates, have greater influence over others, and just be seen as someone who is not known to be wrong.
The key to this technique is 1) knowing the difference between a fact and your opinion or belief and 2) knowing how to state your opinion or belief as an opinion or belief. Begin by asking yourself, “Can this statement be reasonably argued?” For example, if you are holding a pen you can, with certainty, say, “I am holding a pen.” However, if the lighting is poor, can you say with certainty that the pen is dark blue? Is it possible it is black? Or even maroon? When unsure of a fact or expressing a belief or opinion use phrases such as:
It is my understanding that
In my opinion
I could be wrong, but
Using words and phrases such as “can,” “may,” “it’s possible that,” “it’s one of,” “at times,” etc., has similar benefits, but can also be argued with. For example:
It is possible that men have never walked on the moon, and the whole thing was a just a staged event to put the U.S. ahead in the space race.
The words “it is possible that” makes it difficult to disagree with this statement unless said to a member one of the Apollo missions who actually walked on the moon.
In my opinion, this is one of the best communication techniques there is. It gives listeners or readers the opportunity to have a different opinion, but does not give them a chance to disagree with the statement made. Be careful not to abuse this technique by “watering down” known facts but use this technique when there is even the slightest chance the fact is an opinion. As a writer or speaker, this can give you credibility with your audience while helping you to become a more successful communicator.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)