If we do correct someone, whom do we correct? Whose infractions do we ignore? If you do need to correct someone, how do you do it in a way that the person wants to thank you instead of resent you?
Whether you have corrected someone or been the person corrected, it never hurts to have a set of clear guidelines to follow.
The answer to all these questions is, of course, a tad complex: who is the person in relation to you, what is the time and place, and whether the correction will have a positive impact.
Whom do you have the responsibility to correct? Your children and your employees. (Coworkers are sometimes, but not usually, included. See more about this below.)
Whom can you correct in love without it probably hurting your relationship? Your spouse, blood relatives with whom you have a positive relationship, in-laws with whom you have a very positive relationship, and your closest friends.
Here’s how to decide how, when, and when not to correct someone.
• Correcting, even when it’s our children, should take place privately. When correcting an adult or child in public, the person remembers the embarrassment they felt more than the “correct answer” to what they were corrected for.
• “Um, actually…” Whatever follows these two words usually doesn’t bode well for the other person. Think before saying them, because they tend to be the currently most used precursors to correcting someone about the most trivial bit of information. For example, while binge-watching “Sherlock,” you mention the lead actor’s name, and the person watching with you says, “Um, actually…his last name is Cumberbatch, not Cumberhatch.” A more polite way would be to say, “I saw him interviewed, and he was introduced as Benedict Cumberbatch. It is rather a tongue twister of a name.”
• Before correcting others, especially when correcting them publicly, ask yourself this question: Will the information I give by correcting them bring about enough “good” to offset the embarrassment they will feel? Only if the answer is yes should you proceed.
Corrections that result in the person thanking you instead of resenting you are ones that you made: privately, gently, and with an explanation of why you feel the correction was needed.
When Do You Correct Someone In Front of Others?
• If the incorrect information would directly impact the actions of others and cause them to make a mistake or hold a mistaken belief. For instance, if I that our next meeting will be held on the fourth of the month, but it’s on the twelfth, you’d want to say something so that everyone doesn’t show up on the wrong date. If you can state why or how you know, it’s always good to add that in because it helps people decide which person is correct.
• If you’re out-and-about and hear strangers talking, and one is giving incorrect information, you can interject in order to keep someone from making a mistake. Let’s say you’re in McDonald’s and someone asks for driving directions. Another person tells him to take a left on I-20 to get to his destination; however, having lived in the area for years, you KNOW that he needs to take a right or he’ll be heading in the wrong direction. Say something like, “Hi, I apologize for interrupting. I just happened to overhear the directions. You’ll want to take a left on I-20. I interrupted because I’ve gone the wrong direction before and the next exit is a good fifteen miles out of your way!”
Your tone of voice will convey as much of your heart as your words will when correcting someone. Your goal is to clear up misinformation that matters. When in doubt, smile and walk away.