Nobody likes being wrong. Nobody. But it’s going to happen.
The question is, as with everything, what do you do about it?
I’ve been experiencing this lately when it comes to my writing and things that are more opinion-based than fact-based.
I don’t have a massive following, but enough of one that people, here on the blog or on social media, will let me know when I’m straying.
One benefit of the Internet is that it keeps you honest.
This is not to say that my opinions are somehow being corrected. What has been is how I express them.
It’s a problem many of us have in the digital age: Our fingers–the proxies for our mouths–sometimes run too fast for them to truly express what our brains are trying to process.
Recent example: This post about the prevalence of cursing in the workplace, how it’s more acceptable among us Millennials, and how young women were more apt to swear at work.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my initial post made it sound like I was trying to tel women to be proper “ladies.” I neglected to mention that the term “unladylike,” which I had in quotes, came from the article! I also didn’t specify there, and in other places, that my post was aimed at the workplace and how excessive swearing can make anyone–man or woman–sound less-intelligent, and can obscure their message.
And then I saw a mention on my Twitter feed by a female complaining to the person who retweeted my post about the chauvinistic aspects of my writing.
(I looked for the Tweet, but it seems that the person deleted it).
Now, if I had intended to be chauvinistic, I wouldn’t have changed things. But rereading my post–the entire post–I realized that it did not match the intentions of the post itself. So I edited that part, along with some others, until it fit with the message I was trying to convey (TL;DR: Don’t swear at work).
We all know that one of the best ways to be successful online and in general is to be authentic. And by that overused word I mean be the person you truly are.
If you’re being true to yourself, people will notice. Believe me, on the Internet, they’ll notice.
But that’s good. Entering into the arena of opinion and debate will hone your thinking, writing, and speaking skills. Steel sharpens steel, and you’ll never get better if you don’t put yourself out there.
Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when I write, speak, Gab, or Tweet:
Fast. Not fasting from food, but from saying what you don’t mean, or what you will regret. What goes in the mouth isn’t as harmful as what comes out. Words don’t have magical powers, but they do have consequences. If words aren’t true to you, they’re better left unsaid.
Re-read. This is my big problem. I’m always in a rush to post something, send something out, or finish a project and get on to the next one. This is the case personally and professionally. I’ve found that, if time allows, letting something sit for as little as 10 minutes before returning to it for another pass-through is paid big dividends. And not just for correcting typos but for articulating thoughts.
Edit. You read that right. I’m on Ed Latimore’s team in this regard: This is not about rewriting history, but about ensuring that you are accurately representing your best self. These are that your thoughts, your ideas. This is your image. Take care of it as appropriate. Delete those dumb tweets and rewrite or revise those things that aren’t saying what you want to say, how you want to say it.
Admit mistakes. An honest mea culpable can do wonders, so don’t let your pride get the best of you if a correction is warranted. However, if what you wrote or said does accurately reflect what you wanted to say and somebody takes umbrage, then don’t apologize. Once the online wolfpack sniffs weakness, they’ll be out for blood and won’t let go until you’re dead, metaphorically (hopefully).
Humility. Staying humble helps a lot in this regard. This isn’t to say that you should downplay your own abilities or beat yourself up; far from it. But it helps to remind yourself that you will mess up eventually and that you don’t know everything. And here’s the best part: Neither does anybody else! The successful ones you want to emulate have had more failures than you can possibly imagine. The thing is, they let movie forward and continued to learn.
The day you stop learning is the day you should stop doing anything.
Or you should write a book about it and make tons of money while sharing your secret with the rest of us.
And check out my Instagram here.