How to stop the “being wrong” culture

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It seems to me that a lot of people – including myself a few years ago – usually default to assuming that they are wrong. Or at fault. Or made a mistake.

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Somehow that has been ingrained into many us.

    The boss calls, we assume the worst.
    Somebody asks a question, there must be something wrong.
    We don’t understand a situation, of course the other person must be at fault. Or maybe it’s us. Probably us.

When we don’t know, we assume the worst. Why not worry when we don’t have to? Ugh.

But learning how to evaluate situations without assuming fault is hard and takes some practice and confidence.


This hit me when I was flying Cedar Rapids – Charlotte – DC with my wife for a weekend away. First class was nearly sold out on Cedar Rapids – Charlotte. We were on the upgrade list and were called up to the counter. They had one seat for us. I let them skip my name and gave it to my wife.

No problemo and I was right behind her in main cabin extra, which now has seats like this on American on a Canadair 900. Those dividers are hardcore. No bleeding over into that other seat.

Side note for executive platinums flying with companions. I should have just taken it and given her the seat when on board. Letting her clear cost me $80 in upgrade fees since it was her. For me it would have been free. Lesson learned.


My policy is that when I’m No. 1 on the upgrade list, I keep refreshing to see if I get the last minute upgrade. It has happened – including on Chicago – London. When they walk up with your hail mary upgrade while you are sitting in economy that feels awesome.

There were two open seats in first. I had a shot. Probably a couple running late. 10 minutes to boarding. The door should be closing soon. I refreshed and tada had now cleared into 1D in first class.

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My boarding pass also updated. I got up and moved to my new seat. As I got there the flight attendant challenged to see my boarding pass.

“Just got upgraded?”

“Yup. Here’s my boarding pass.”

“Great. Would you like a predeparture beverage?”

As I sipped my beverage – which is usually this, my app changed back to 8D and the check mark disappeared.

The couple has clearly shown up late and I lost my upgrade. I got up, left my drink behind and moved back. No further comments needed. From me or the flight attendants.

I didn’t do anything wrong, though it looked like it maybe to the people sitting around me. It also felt wrong. But it wasn’t.


Why the next-play mentality matters

Things change so quickly today in content marketing, journalism and many industries that assuming fault can’t be the default.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t own our mistakes. We should, but then run the next play.

Now, of course, some people do things that are illegal or against the rules deliberately, that’s not what I’m talking about here. You do have to follow the rules.

I’m talking about everyday situations. Many of them are more and more complex and have variables.

I think the trick is this:

  • Try to understand the rules
  • Apply them
  • Don’t assume
  • Listen to the sides of a story
  • Find the sides of the story – there’s been times when it took some digging to actually get the full story.
  • Evaluate
  • Try to understand the perspectives
  • Adjust
  • Don’t be a jerk

Certainly the upgrade scenario wasn’t that complicated and didn’t need all those steps. Now, I wonder what the rules are around an upgrade that had already been granted. Possession is the majority of the law? When I was late for a Chicago to London flight they had given my business class seat away. But that was an upgrade. I assume these people on my CID-CLT had bought first class.


Anyway, let’s all be collaborative, try to understand and do not assume fault just because somebody is talking to you, asking a question or even challenging.

Talk like you are right. Listen like you are wrong.