Being Stubborn

An Article for the Never Wrong

I never thought it would be such a relief to be wrong but I’m starting to love it. Ahhhh!

Does that statement surprise you when there are so many success texts on how to be, or do things, ‘right’?


Do you know the pressure of feeling you have to be right? Do you know what it’s like to not be able to stand being wrong? It’s not pleasant!

Maybe YOU don’t but I bet you know someone like that. Someone who has to have the last word!

It might be funny for a few minutes but ultimately it’s annoying. And destructive.

Being unable to admit you are wrong is what I call a ‘psychological knot’. Creating greater openness and being welcome to ‘get it wrong’ can untie you for greater success!

A pastor I know said: “I’m scared of a man who can’t admit he’s wrong.”  Hitler, for example, was that man at one point. Even when everything was going wrong at the end of the Second World War, the films portray his lieutenants saying: “He hasn’t led us wrong before. We should trust him.” Yeah, that worked out. Confidence does not equal correctness!

King Solomon said in his Biblical Proverbs: “Every man is right in his own eyes” and indeed, our brains are designed to reinforce our existing perceptions. If you don’t know that, you’re at a disadvantage and possibly so are the people around you!

Professor Michael Hall (creator of Neurosemantics) says that fundamentalism is: “believing in our beliefs”. He theorises that if every school in the world taught that our thoughts do not exactly or accurately map ‘reality’, terrorism would be impossible.

Because when you know your beliefs are about reality, subject to error – and not reality itself – you open up a chink of awareness that allows for the possibility of then being wrong. Even if just a little…!

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in God and I believe that my beliefs refer to a real Almighty Creator. And I also know that these thoughts exist as beliefs. I believe they are true but unlike some of the fundamentalists I know they are beliefs and may or may not refer accurately to ‘reality’. That is the difference.

So back to admitting that you can get things wrong – why is this such a problem for so many people?

First, there is the issue of linking performance with your worth. I believe our worth is unconditional but if you link ‘worth’ to your work (for instance) when someone criticizes your work they criticise – your ‘worth’.  That makes ‘failure’ psychologically painful, perhaps intolerable and you can take any criticisms of your efforts personally.

Or if, “I think, therefore I am”, then someone disagreeing with your thoughts is making YOU wrong. It’s seems like its just semantics… but few people like having their core sense of self questioned!

That’s why the word ‘failure’ is such a problem for some people.  It’s more than just a word to them.

For others, being ‘right’ has become a pre-condition to be achieved before happiness can be allowed. It’s become like one of those bloodthirsty ancient gods people used to think they had to appease. Some of these ‘gods’ wanted a terrible price to stop them being ‘angry’.

Psychologically, is the absolute need to be proved right any less dangerous? It demands the sacrifice of other peoples’ opinions on the altar of you ego.

In the end it can turn away friends, success and all the things that people want.

Even good friendships are built partly on the ability to influence each other. That mean’s admitting that your view could be different. Once that isn’t present, it’s hard to be around that person.

This is why I have started to stubbornly defend my right to be wrong! I am fallible! Yes, you could be right…. I actually don’t know…

It makes life so much easier. No-one can hold me over a barrel about my beliefs because my self-worth is not dependent on them. And my opinions, whilst I will defend them are (usually) open to question.

So how did I come to this conclusion?

Just getting the big picture on how many mistakes our perceptions CAN make is enough to humble even the most arrogant of thinkers!

It’s horrendously humbling to realise just how fault-prone our thinking is. Since the 1960’s cognitive-behavioural therapists have been identifying cognitive ‘distortions’ which are thinking styles/patterns of behaviour that make us filter our perceptions in a certain way. Here is one such list below:

  1. Over-generalizing
  2. ‘All-or-nothing’ thinking
  3. Labelling – Name Calling
  4. Blaming
  5. Mind-reading
  6. Prophesying – that the future will be awful.
  7. Emotionalising-wishful thinking
  8. Personalising
  9. Awfulizing – Making things pervasive
  10. Should-ing – Demandingness
  11. Filtering
  12. Can’t-ing – Taboo-ing: Prohibiting
  13. Discounting – Perfectionism, Pessimistic Thinking
  14. Identifying – Identifications of the self with other concepts

Along with this there have been identified at least 60 filtering patterns (called Meta-Programs). Any of these when overused can cause people to get ‘stuck’ in their thinking and behaving.

Does this mean we should doubt every single perception we have? I would understand if you thought it did!

No, but it does mean we could be a little more open to checking out how we’re making our conclusions! The more we learn about how our incredible brains process information, the more we might want to come to ‘tentatively definite’ conclusions. That is, conclusions we are as sure about as we can be – for now!

All of the above (he said ‘over-generalising!) might be a lot to take in. So here’s a thought. When you’re making a decision and you think you’ve made it just step back and ask yourself:

  • “What else could be going on here?”
  • “What am I assuming?”
  • “Do those assumptions have any basis in fact?”
  • “Are they useful?”

It’s a good start. Sometimes being wrong (even if just for a moment) is exactly what you need.

If you’re feeling ‘stuck’, and interested in checking out a free ‘explore your breakthrough session’ to get moving, please go to :

If you want to learn more about what meta-coaching can do for you AND get a free copy of the PDF Mastering Cognitive Distortions – please sign up on the front page at

Douglas Cartwright is a guest blogger for PickTheBrain. His is a breakthrough and personal effectiveness Meta-coach.  And a dad.

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17 Responses to An Article for the Never Wrong

  1. You address a very important topic. Being defensive and stuck is completely limiting. Related to the freedom of being wrong is not knowing. I love to say “I don’t know” if I don’t. When we tell the truth, relationships flourish and the world opens up to us.

  2. Great post, Douglas!

    “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.” – John C. Maxwell

    We must learn to subdue our ego and be brave to admit our mistakes. As Henry Ford said, “Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.”

    By admitting our own mistakes, we’re able to develop a clearer perspective on the issue at hands that needs to be resolved and hence, helping us to come up with a viable solution to make things work.



  3. bretthimself says:

    Excellent article.

    One thing I do for self-amusement nowadays is deliberately include things that aren’t true (and are well known facts) just so people can pounce on them and seem right. Everyone wins: I get the laugh, and they get the ego boost.

  4. The thing I like about being wrong is that it makes you more human. And that’s a great way to bond with others. Making mistakes, being wrong and admitting it, sort of takes the pressure of the other person in the interaction and it allows her to do the same.

    Thx for this post :)


  5. Jason Cooper says:

    “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

    ~ Socrates

  6. We donot make any mistake we donot learn anything.Doing some thing wrong,that teachus more thing than sucess.We travelling in unknown circumstance, doing new thing, mistake is natural,without fall no child will learn to walk. Mistake make us humble..that is sing of our progress.Alway make adventure do mistake,only then you lean some thing.

  7. Douglas Cartwright says:

    Thanks Gail,

    Sometimes I wonder when people respond defensively (and when I respond defensively) – “What age is the part of me responding that way?”. An adult perspective is that we are fallible, don’t know it all etc but I guess if people were punished for getting things wrong then a 30 year old person might be responding with a 7 year old part?

    I forgot to mention that I actually write my own blog on and am starting a series on psychological knots at

    I’m doing a lot of guest posting at the moment but all new posts will be linked to from my blog.

    Thanks for commenting, much appreciated.


  8. Douglas Cartwright says:

    Hi Brett,

    That makes me smile! What a way to get your ego out the way!


  9. Douglas Cartwright says:

    Eduard, I agree. I also think that admitting you don’t know gives the other person the chance to feel like they can give something to you too. Hmm. I think there might be an article in there. Thanks!


  10. Douglas Cartwright says:

    A big thank you to all of you for your comments.

    I LOVE this about blogging communities, the chance to add to each other’s knowledge.

    If you have the time, please pop over to my site and have a look around. I write my own blog at and I also am a specialist in helping people get ‘unstuck and moving forward’. I look forward to reading YOUR work as well.

    God bless


    p.s. I realise I have taken down the PDF for cognitive distortions I mentioned above. If you have signed up at my site and NOT been able to download it, just send me an email at and I’ll make sure you get it.

  11. What matters most is not that you are wrong or made a mistake. It’s how you move on after you realize that you are wrong or have made a mistake.

  12. I truly enjoyed this article. I think it helps to see value in the beliefs of others. Sure, it may not agree with your own. But that is what makes life so darn interesting. What is right for one person may be wrong for someone else. And that IS okay.

  13. Pol says:

    As a high school teacher the worst advice I ever had, from a head teacher, was “never admit you are wrong, say it was a deliberate mistake to check they are listening”

    You have written a good post, thank you.

    Going through life, I have found that making mistakes often can make you more approachable and can help relationships as many people expect people who make few or no mistakes to be judgemental so I have found many are more likely to choose to confide in me if they know I have made mistakes too.

    As a teacher, the hardest students to actually teach are the ones who will not tackle harder work for fear of making mistakes and want a perfect exercise book page every time.

  14. Thanks Pol. I was actually just thinking about the subject again and realised that making mistakes is as natural as breathing! You cannot NOT make mistakes!

    ‘m writing a new article on the subject (similar to this one but a little different!) and I’ll be posting it to my blog at in a few days.

    Oh, and thanks for being a teacher too! My daughter knows that if there’s trouble I’ll listen to the person educating my child very closely!


  15. Alfonso says:

    There are times in my life where I really wish I would have been wrong…being right turned out to be a painful truth.

  16. Great blog! Having to always be right usually comes from configuration in childhood where either the child was shamed when wrong or had to grow up too fast. Yes, in order to succeed, feel happy and have those around us happy it is worth learning, how to be wrong. How can you ever learn otherwise? I love what Professor Michael Hall said, that fundamentalism is believing in our beliefs. It is important to know that beliefs by their very nature are a group of thoughts once removed from reality itself. I could keep agreeing with you down the line, but I’ll stop here.

    Until next time,

    Dr. Jennifer Howard

  17. Daniel says:

    “The map is not the territory” is one of the most important things that I’ve learned from NLP. Thanks for this great article!

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