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How to Correctly Correct

Does anyone mispronounce your name?  Or get your business title wrong as they introduce you?

Or, do you have coworkers who incorrectly relate facts about your business, such as mismatching client and cities, products and vendors, versions and years?

Do you find an acquaintance of yours’s constant inaccuracies to be highly irritating?

In our business world, what is the appropriate way to correct others?

Need to Correct

It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, we often find ourselves in that delicate predicament of needing to correct someone, yet be mindful of the potential of being misunderstood as disrespectful and condescending.

To help each of us, here is a list of rules to follow in deciding when and how to correct someone.

  1. When at all possible, correct someone in private to avoid any embarrassment to either the person using the incorrect information or (believe it or not) you. Yes, it frequently becomes an embarrassment to you if the person you are correcting doesn’t receive it appropriately.
  2. If you must correct someone in public, always do it with a soft touch. For example, if they are mispronouncing your name, instead of simply telling them how to pronounce it, try telling a short story that will help them remember it.  “It’s interesting you pronounce my name that way, my grandfather tells the story of when during the depression. . . .”

For those with difficult names, having a pre-planned lesson helps everyone listening to remember your name.  In a business setting, turn the mispronouncing of your name into a learning opportunity where everyone will remember you.

  1. 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.
  2. Corrections made privately, gently, and with an explanation of why you feel the correction was needed are the ones that result in the person thanking you instead of resenting you.
  3. As a general rule, the only people you have a responsibility to correct are your children and coworkers.
  4. What’s the kindest way to go about correcting someone you’ve determined the correction is needed? When no one else is around, mention what the person stated incorrectly, what you happened to have noticed, and that you’d bring it to the person’s attention because, if it were you, you’d appreciate knowing. And, when possible, end on a positive note.
  5. Try to never come across as authoritative. Being overly authoritative, confrontational, and closed-minded when correcting will only serve to make you look pretentious and condescending. Instead, point out where you take issue, and then open it up for discussion.
  6. Use questions where appropriate. Phrasing things as inquiries, rather than statements, makes it obvious that you intend to facilitate a conversation that ultimately improves the end result.

The Bible

Scripture says.

Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you. (Proverbs 9:8)

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but whoever hates correction is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1)

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
but a mocker does not respond to rebukes. (Proverbs 13:1)

It’s fairly easy to see where the Bible stands on delivering and receiving corrections.  Logic tells us that we should want to be corrected.  We all want to provide the correct information and pronounce names correctly.

As you see from the list of eight items above, it is never about the information; it is always about the delivery of the information.

Proverbs 18:19 says.

A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city;
disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.

Just as Benjamin Disraeli stated, when correcting others, decide if a correction is needed, and can the correction can be given and a relationship maintained.  And when you decide to correct, always do it out of love.