For all our emphasis on communication skills, one of the most common (and challenging) things to communicate is admitting we are wrong. It can feel highly emotional, and understandably so. When working with clients on this area, I often bring up the idea of freedom, i.e. How do I communicate and admit I’m wrong – with more freedom?

I am free because I can change my mind.
I can change my mind because I allow myself the possibility of being wrong.

Isn’t that what freedom is, ultimately? The ability to choose, from moment to moment – to change our mind. I suggest that one of the most powerful forms of freedom, is the freedom of ‘ready to be wrong’.

When we preclude the possibility of being wrong, we are actually removing one of our choices. In this way, we have less freedom. And if you happen to frame the situation as either correct or wrong, you’ve effectively removed 50% of your choice!

What impact might this have on your behaviour, and on your result of your communication?

Try this experiment

Try saying the following, out loud.

(A) “I’m wrong.”

Did it feel relatively easy, or uneasy? Take awareness of how this felt for you, internally.

Now, try saying the following. With a pause before each next sentence.

(B) “I’m sorry. I’m wrong.”

(C) “I’m sorry. I was wrong.”

(D) “I’m sorry. That thing I did was wrong.”

Now, take a moment to check in with yourself:

How did you experience (B), (C) and (D), as compared to (A)?

In what ways were (B), (C) and (D) different for you?


distance creates space for you to respond from choice

Obviously, experiences can differ. In my coaching sessions, the majority of clients found (A) most uneasy. (D) is often feels the easiest, by comparison.

Why would this be so? I attribute this to distance.

(A) “I’m wrong.”

In (A), there is absolutely no distance between the wrong and I. In fact, the declaration literally says, I’m wrong. As in, the wrong and I are the same thing. I AM the wrong. Nobody like this idea, and thus the uneasiness arises.

(B) “I’m sorry. I’m wrong.”

From (B) onwards, there is an apology included. This is an important act of acceptance. Without acceptance, there is no change. Not whole-hearted, anyway.

Sidebar: Notice how acceptance is also commonly-associated with peace. The same thing applies here. Do you want peace over your change of mind? Move into acceptance, through the declaration of I’m sorry.

Thus, with acceptance, we move further away from our previous, ‘wrong’ choice. Distance.

(C) “I’m sorry. I was wrong.”

With (C), we declare the ‘wrongness’ as being in the past. More distance.

(D) “I’m sorry. That thing I did was wrong.”

With (D), we add the most critical form of distance; we declare that the ‘wrongness’ as being separate from us. We are sorry, because THAT thing (that we did) was wrong. Our person, our being, is not wrong. happen to be wrong about that one thing.

Distance, distance, and more distance.

When we create enough distance between us and our choice, we are more able to not take things to heart. In fact, pause now and consider take things to heart. How much distance is here? A lot? A little? Or none?

Space ≈ Freedom

space gives us freedom to navigate our communication

Do you realize what other useful thing comes with distance? Space.

If we want to put a piece of craftwork together, we need space on our workbench. Space to work.

Similarly, when we juggle multiple tasks, we need enough space in our mind. When the tasks become too many or too big, we can feel like there is no space in our heads.

And isn’t space also synonymous with freedom? Moving around freely, without restriction.

Freedom and choice – and by extension, declaring we were wrong about something – is easier when we have space. And one of the most fundamental ways you can create such space for yourself is to declare it, perhaps through a statement such as (D). Similarly, when people are being confident, they might preface their decisions (or opinions) with a statement such as, “I might be wrong, but…”

We can be creative, and push this even more. Create even more space by saying, “I’m fully prepared to be wrong here, fully prepared to change my mind if so. But at this moment, I choose…”

Can you see how much space – i.e. freedom – you can create for yourself like this?

What impact might this have on your behaviour, and on your result of your communication?

We can enjoy better relationships if we communicate better. And communication can be made more effective if we have more freedom to express our needs and thoughts, especially in moments when we want to change our minds, and admit that we were wrong about certain matters. As you’ve seen (and hopefully, experienced) here, we can create the freedom to do this more easily through our language.

You have the choice to declare freedom for yourself, and create all the space you need to navigate difficult conversations.

space to respond victor frankl

Here’s a little bit more about the power of space that you can delve into.