Growing up, I definitely got the message that it was possible to know everything.
My dad was a member of Mensa. Never heard of it? Neither had I. It’s an IQ society open to people who score in the 98th percentile or higher on an approved intelligence test.
My IQ is high enough to know it’s not worth my taking the test.
But my dad tested in. Which is amazing. And something he was super proud of. As well he should have been.
My brother was on the academic team in high school. You know, the people who know tons of random facts and just might have a future as contestants on Jeopardy?
And then there was me.
I was clever and witty. And loud.
I also developed a keen attention to detail. I could spot a grammatical error a mile away. I loved diagraming sentences.
Maybe I thought if I could spot all that was wrong in the world outside of me, no one would spot the things that were wrong inside of me. Keep the focus on other’s mistakes. No one notices mine.
When someone did notice a mistake of mine, and pointed it out, it struck me to the core of my identity. It was as if they pulled off my veil of perfection, blew a raspberry in my face, and exposed me as a fraud.
The older I get, the more I realize everyone makes mistakes. It’s not just a cute phrase someone came up with to make their child feel better. It’s just reality.
While it still doesn’t feel great to have my shortcomings exposed, wouldn’t I rather know than not know?
If I have a blind spot that everyone else can see, what good does it do me if no one says anything?
But there is a tension in the world when it comes to pointing out mistakes. I don’t think it feels good to anyone. So it’s a risk to point something out. You have to weigh the cost.
Within the first few months of seeing a chiropractor, I had to fill out some paperwork. There was a clear error in wording on the document.
I didn’t know the chiropractor very well. From everything I’d seen about the way she ran her office and trained her staff, she would want to know. She would want to correct the error.
But what if I was wrong?
If I were in her shoes, I would want to know. I wouldn’t want paperwork representing my work to have mistakes in it.
But not everyone is like me in that way.
I chose not to say anything.
When I first started this blog, I did a month of haikus. The first haiku had a mistake in it. And no one told me!
The haiku structure is 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. And the very first post was wrong!
It’s possible those who read it didn’t know the structure. Or didn’t count the syllables.
As a reader, I would have counted the syllables!
Thankfully I noticed the error. And corrected it.
I have been going back to my early blog posts and creating an audio version for the podcast. In reading the posts out loud, I catch errors I missed before posting the text.
The most glaring mistake was in a post titled Creativity Sparks Creativity. At the end of the first paragraph, I wrote:
Creative often sparks creativity.
Oops! But no one told me.
It’s possible their brains autocorrected it, and they didn’t notice.
A few weeks ago, my husband told me the audio on one of my posts repeated at the end.
I fixed it and uploaded the corrected audio file. Total error on my end.
I was so thankful he told me. How many other people had listened? Had they noticed?
Where once upon a time, I might have felt attacked or exposed by noticing or being told about these mistakes, I found myself thankful for the insight and ability to correct them.
I won’t say these came without a twinge of wishing there hadn’t been a mistake in the first place. But ultimately I’d rather know about the mistake so I can correct it than to have it hanging out in the world without my knowing.
A week after my husband revealed the audio repeat, I noticed an error on a friend’s LinkedIn page. It was supposed to say that she could “meet the needs of your clients.”
However, it actually said she could “meet the needs of you clients.”
So what was I to do?
In NYC, the MTA has a saying: If you see something, say something.
If this were my LinkedIn page, I would want to know.
I took a risk.
I took a screenshot, circled the error, and sent her a text saying, “I was reading your blurb and saw you were missing an R.”
“You da best.”
I recently received an email about an upcoming event that listed the wrong date. I knew the sender and took a chance.
“This Saturday is the 7th. I think most people already have it on their calendars, but an 8 went all rogue and jumped into your email!”
“Thank you for catching that!!!”
I will acknowledge that relationship matters. So does the approach used when communicating an error.
And there is no fool-proof way to expose a mistake. Sometimes people won’t appreciate the call out. No matter how you go about it.
How do you approach these kinds of situations? Do you let people know or keep it to yourself? Do you appreciate it when people make you aware of your mistakes or would you rather they left well enough alone?
If you were in my shoes, what would you do?