Why is it so hard to bite our tungs?

Why do people – yes, including myself – feel so compelled to correct other people about things which make absolutely no difference?

In the past couple of weeks I’ve heard people correct others about the most insignificant things imaginable.

I’m sure there are times when we need to correct and be corrected. But not nearly as often as we may think.

One woman interrupted her husband’s story to let him know he’d mispronounced a word. Of course, until she pointed it out, I don’t think anyone noticed. And if they did, I doubt they cared. People did seem to care that she seemed rude when she interrupted, though.

I heard a man yell across a room to correct a complete stranger when the stranger got the score of a basketball game wrong by one point. The difference between the two scores was insignificant. The animosity generated by the public correction wasn’t.

And I joined the fun when a friend mistakenly referred to my manual The Forbidden Keys to Persuasion as The Forbidden Keys of Persuasion. Of course, this is such a minor error that I couldn’t care less. But at that moment, as I was caught up in the frenzy of conversation, that didn’t matter. Before I knew it, I opened my mouth, corrected my friend and damaged our friendship.

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Of course, when we do this, part of us feels we’re doing the other person a favor. After all, they’re mistaken about something and we are being “thoughtful” enough to correct them. But whatever personal satisfaction we may feel is often dwarfed by the ill will we create.

Yes, I’m sure there are times when we need to correct and be corrected. But not nearly as often as we may think.

So if everyone understands the point and nothing critical is on the line, why do we feel so compelled to correct other people’s mistakes? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that unless we learn to recognize the problem and be a bit more forgiving, we’re often doing more harm than good.

Before we correct others, perhaps we should furst bite our tungs and ask ourselves if it’s wirth it. But beleeve me, it’s not as eazy as it seams.

Is it?

Originally published January 01, 2006
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