Raising a very strong-willed seven-year old daughter definitely has its challenges. One of the many life lessons that we want her to learn is the lesson of how to properly interact with her peers. One concept we recently discussed is when it is okay not be “right.” For example, our daughter often corrects her friends when they say or do something that she knows isn’t correct. Sometimes it is helpful, and sometimes it is frankly annoying. We have tried to explain to her that unless it is something very important, it is okay to let mistakes go. She was very confused by this statement. It is hard for her to grasp the concept. If something isn’t right, shouldn’t it be corrected? I asked her if she would rather have good relationships with her friends or always be right. She stated, “I want both.” We have some work to do.
This conversation made me think about our interactions with each other as professionals. Have you ever had a conversation with a peer who corrected you constantly? Are you the one who constantly corrects other professionals? Their pronunciation of words? When you know what the person meant, but they used the wrong word? Have you ever corrected the word “your” to “you’re” in an email where it was not critical? Is this behavior professional? It probably depends.
Correcting a small issue that will not affect anyone else is probably not a good idea, particularly in public. You may embarrass your colleague which will not foster a great professional relationship. However, if the person’s mistake could impact others in a negative way, it may be necessary. If that is the case, perhaps you should attempt to point out the mistake in private, if possible. It is also helpful to avoid using words or phrases that come across as pompous and condescending. For example, instead of saying, “actually, it is pronounced voir dire,” you could say, “I have always had a hard time with those Latin words. I heard the judge pronounce it “vwar dir.”
Manners are a huge part of professionalism and are not something we should focus on only as a child. If you catch yourself correcting someone for something relatively unimportant, you may want to pose the same question to yourself that I asked my daughter? Would you rather have a good relationship with your fellow professionals, or be right all the time? You likely cannot have both.