Learning to admit you were wrong is a skill that many people never develop.
Let’s face it—being wrong is hard to admit.
It requires self-awareness, empathy, and the ability to have uncomfortable discussions.
It also takes a great deal of humility, which many people view as a weakness rather than the powerful strength that it is.
If you find it difficult to admit you’ve made a mistake, the following 12 tips will help you better navigate this uncomfortable situation (and your relationships will thank you for it):
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you learn how to admit when you were wrong. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
1. Stay calm.
Take some time to collect your thoughts and get your emotions under control before you own the mistake.
If you try to address it immediately, there’s a good chance that you’ll fire back with anger or defensiveness that will make the problem worse.
Think back to a time when you responded to a problem with anger. It probably didn’t go so well, did it?
Express to the other person that you need some time to cool off and think about the situation. Most reasonable people will agree to this because they’ll likely benefit from a few minutes to think, too.
2. Reflect on the situation.
Once you’re calm, consider the circumstances and factors that led to your mistake.
Why did the situation happen? What could you have done differently to change the outcome? How can you avoid it happening again in the future?
Maybe you had a lack of good information or understanding about the situation. This can be fixed next time by taking time to find all the pieces of the puzzle and searching out different perspectives before you react.
Or perhaps you always feel the need to be right, even if you’re wrong, and this got the better of you. This is a hard habit to overcome, but owning that you have a problem with it is a good start.
Asking yourself these questions will help you better explain to the other person why it happened and what you can do differently in the future.
3. Acknowledge the mistake directly.
Do not beat around the bush. Do not avoid addressing the problem directly.
Clearly admit that you were wrong and what your mistake was. Use straightforward language and don’t make excuses or shift blame.
If you’re including the word “but” in your acknowledgment, it’s quite likely you’re trying to make an excuse or shift blame, even if you don’t realize it. A lot of people don’t.
The benefits of admitting your mistake include opening the lines of communication, building trust by sharing vulnerability, and demonstrating humility.
All great things for your relationships, I’m sure you’ll agree.
4. Choose the right time and place.
Private matters and problems that you have with other people are best aired in private.
So, find an appropriate setting to discuss the mistake, preferably somewhere private where you can both speak freely. And consider the timing of when you want to acknowledge the mistake.
The context of the conversation may change if they’re stressed out, upset, or dealing with a heavy load. They may even feel like you’re trying to take advantage of their vulnerability by bringing it up at a sensitive time.
You can say something like, “Hey. I’d like to talk to you about this thing I did. Is now a good time? Or would you prefer some other time?” This allows them to set the pace and stage, and you should respect that.
5. Be honest and transparent.
This one can’t be stressed enough.
If you’re leaving out information or trying to sidestep particular pieces of the puzzle, they’re going to know.
They were most likely present for it, after all.
But, even if you did manage to slide something past them dishonestly, you’re going to have a much, much bigger problem later on when they eventually find out the truth. And chances are, they will.
This could shatter the relationship beyond repair and just isn’t worth the risk.
6. Use “I” statements.
By acknowledging your mistake with “I” statements you are communicating that you are taking personal responsibility for the mistake.
“I made a mistake” is a good place to start the conversation and apologize, but it’s easy to mess up “I” statements if you’re not aware of how easily you can disqualify them with what you say next.
For example, “I made a mistake because John told me you’d done XYZ” (and what John told you turned out not to be true).
On the surface, that may seem completely reasonable. If you made a bad decision based on incorrect information that John gave you, it would be easy to blame John.
But the real question is—why didn’t you ask the person involved if what John said was true first? Why didn’t you make sure you had good information before acting on it?
It doesn’t matter if John gave you bad information. You chose to take that information and act on it.
Your actions are your responsibility.
7. Apology sincerely.
Common advice is to apologize sincerely. But what does a sincere apology look like? How do you make a sincere apology?
If you’re ok with eye contact, look the person in the eye and tell them: “I am sorry for hurting you when I did XYZ. I would like to fix the problem/make it up to you. How can I do that?”
Do have a suggestion or two already thought up.
The other person might have their own ideas, but they may not. Or they may want to hear that you’ve thought about ways you can make it better and stop it from happening again.
Since you committed the mistake, you should be putting in the effort to find a solution to mend the rift, but you should also be open to hearing what they want and need too.
8. Demonstrate learning from your mistake.
This follows nicely from our previous point.
During your conversation, you want to communicate how you’ve learned from the mistake and what you want to do better going forward.
There is no better apology than a commitment to do better, and then actually doing it. Be as honest as you can be, even if you’re afraid to look stupid.
No one wants to say, “This is a common problem for me. I am trying my best to do better.” Admitting our flaws and shortcomings is hard and not every solution is as simple as snapping our fingers and changing an action.
Some actions are the result of ingrained habits that need to be addressed. Addressing those habits can take time.
But by owning up to them, you, and others, can be more accepting of your flaws, and in turn, you can start to work on them and the impact they have on those around you.
9. Listen to others.
It’s worth noting that not every situation is appropriate to involve other people in. The person you wronged may not want anyone else to be aware of the problem because it’s embarrassing or painful.
Still, the input of trusted third parties can give additional context and perspective that can help you come to a better solution.
But do be wary of who you take advice from. Some people’s wisdom and common sense can be questionable at times.
Seeking an outsider’s opinion might not be the best choice if you don’t like being corrected or feeling like anyone else is in your business.
Still, that third party can be helpful if it’s an option.
A therapist is a good choice for this, as that way you don’t need to argue with everyone close to you to justify or explain decisions that they might not understand.
10. Avoid making excuses.
Don’t downplay the significance of the mistake or make excuses for it.
If they ask for reasoning, provide the information as neutrally as you can. Again, use the “I” statements we talked about earlier.
For example, “I did X because I thought Z, which turned out to be very wrong and resulted in harming you.”
Accepting responsibility without justification is crucial for a sincere apology.
11. Focus on solutions.
If the other person seems ready, shift the conversation to solutions or fixing the situation rather than dwelling on the problem.
But be prepared to give them time if they aren’t quite there yet. They may have their own emotions or opinions to work through before they are ready to look for a solution.
Be proactive in thinking of a resolution and fixing it. Help the other person out where you can, but only if they need it.
12. Learn and move on.
Once you’ve admitted your mistake and taken corrective action, it’s time to move forward.
Don’t waste time dwelling on your mistake. This will hinder your personal growth and may actually prevent you from learning from your error. It also prevents the other person from moving on.
Instead of moving forward, you both end up swimming in circles.
Any mistake you make is an opportunity for growth.
You made a mistake, you acknowledged it, you learned from it—it’s time to let it go and move on.
Still not sure how to admit that you were wrong about something?
Speak to a therapist about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours.
They can help you to dig deep into the reasons why you find it so hard to admit you are wrong and help you work through those issues.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address.
And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome behaviors they don’t really understand in the first place. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.