Iconic singer Bob Dylan was asked by a writer from Rolling Stone, “Who tells you when you’re wrong?” Dylan immediately got up and walked out. The interview was over. If you don’t like that question either, please stop reading.
Very few people like being told they’re wrong. I hate it. How would someone else know my life better than me? In truth, it is easier to see the poor choices of other than it is to see our own.
So who tells me when I’m wrong? I’ve asked a few different people to take this role for me. They almost always agree to do it and then never follow through. It’s too difficult.
My wife has now taken this responsibility. The stereotype of a spouse becoming this person is that it is a terrible trait. My wife is not a nag or a griper. There is also no one else in my life that my decisions affect more. She has a vested interest in my forward path. Let me also say that no one encourages me more than my wife either.
So in the best possible sense, my wife is very good at telling me when I’m wrong, which also makes me realize I’m not good at this at all. I think it is worth analyzing how she keeps me accountable in hopes that we may be able to duplicate it. There is no exact rhythm to when she tells me, which is good, but she doesn’t let me get too far down the wrong road.
So how does she do it?
1. She has proved herself to be very discerning.
It is critical to have a solid relationship in order to effectively tell someone they are wrong. My wife sees more black and white while I see shades of grey. It is really irritating, but more often than not, I find that my wife is right.
2. She signals me that accountability is coming.
“We need to talk.” Uh-oh. I know what these words mean. But it is important that she doesn’t just catch me off guard. I need to be prepared when I’m receiving tough news.
3. We sit down in a private area.
It is important to have some privacy. There is only one person that needs to hear this and that is the person who is wrong. To have this conversation in front of others would only have the purpose of shaming the person. The goal isn’t shame. The goal is correction.
4. She focuses on one key area.
She doesn’t read off a laundry list. She doesn’t revisit past mistakes unless it is absolutely necessary. After the conversation, I am ultra-clear on exactly what the issue is and what needs to be different.
5. I’m always a little defensive, but she stays focused.
We rarely take a wrong action knowingly. So we don’t tend to think we were wrong. It is good that we have confidence in our original actions so a healthy person will always be a little defensive. In football, an aggressive defense can make a quarterback change the play. This isn’t football. Stay focused on the one issue.
6. She stays with me while I process it.
It isn’t a hit and run. This may be the key. I now process through most of these talks in one setting.
7. She coaches me through a plan for change.
This is new since we started learning how to coach. I’m better as well as since I’ve learned how to be coached. She doesn’t tell me how things are going to be. She draws my path forward out of me.
8. She lets me own my new plan.
This is one reason coaching is so helpful. A coach doesn’t have any agenda for your life. A coach isn’t wishing you would use their idea. A coach isn’t feeling like they owe you an intervention. A coach can hold up a mirror to help you see the way you are operating in an unbiased way.
In a coaching situation, it is very rare for the coach to tell the client that the action they are taking is absolutely wrong, but it is healthy in life to have someone you trust that will tell you very clearly that you are heading in the wrong direction.
Who tells you when you’re wrong? Maybe you should give them this list.
Who do you tell when they’re wrong? Maybe you should post this list somewhere handy.
Which of these eight steps is the hardest for you?