Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?

Right and WrongIf you’ve got two or more kids, or two or more co-workers for that matter, you’ve heard someone say, “He started it … It’s all her fault … She always … and … He never …” Words of blame and shame.

And those words will get nowhere in your relationships.

The “who” question leads to finger pointing and defensiveness. Not problem solving.

Forget the “who” question and focus on the “how” question. How are you going to deal with the other person?

You’ve got two choices. One is to confront the other person. The other is to confront yourself.

CHOICE #1: How to properly confront the other person

Of course, “how” you confront the other person is vitally important. Do it wrong and you will regret it.

So I suggest you ask yourself three questions before you open your mouth and share your negative feedback. If you can answer “yes” to all three questions, go ahead; make your comments. But if you answer “no” to any of the questions, shut up. Don’t say anything.

The first question to ask yourself is, “IS IT TRUE?” In other words, what you are about to relay is not hunch, rumor, guess, or gossip. You have the evidence; you know your comment is absolutely true.

Second, ask yourself, “IS IT NECESSARY?” Sometimes people need to know their behavior is ineffective or inappropriate. So talk to them, not about them. At other times, your comment would not serve any useful purpose; so let it pass.

Finally, ask yourself, “IS IT KIND?” You may be upset with someone else, but you don’t have to make your comment in a disrespectful manner. You may want additional business with a particular customer, but you shouldn’t deceitfully flatter the customer to make the sale. It’s not kind.

(For a powerful communication program that will help you in work relationships, check out my new program, The Power of Partnership: 7 Skills for Better Relationships and Greater Teamwork.)

Of course, there will be times when you realize you messed up in some way. You’re the one who’s wrong. In that case, you should take…

CHOICE #2: How to properly confront yourself

Here’s what you should do.

First, ADMIT YOUR MISTAKE. In fact, the best way to prevent a customer or coworker complaint, or the best way to minimize the damage is to admit your mistake before he/she brings it up. That step alone will develop a sense of good will and trust between the two of you.

Second, TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Even if your team or business unit made the mistake, the customer in front of you, the colleagues around you, or the boss above you doesn’t want to hear excuses or explanations. All they care about is what you are going to do about it.

Third, MOVE QUICKLY. When a hotel loses a customer’s reservation or an airline loses a customer’s luggage, when such problems occur, there is a brief moment during which a front-line employee can turn a bad situation into a memorable one. If you act willingly and quickly to correct the mistake, the disgruntled customer often walks away with renewed faith in your company. If you don’t move quickly, your company may never get a second chance with that customer.

Fourth, INVESTIGATE AND INSTIGATE. Simple mistakes don’t always have simple causes. There may be a problem in the system that caused the difficulty. Investigate. Find the cause. Maybe there was a lack of understanding on someone’s part, maybe a lack of training, or even a lack of motivation behind the mistake. If you don’t find the cause and instigate some corrective action, you’ll be repeating steps one and two over and over.

The next time you see someone making a mistake, don’t attack the other person. And the next time you screw up, don’t try to cover it up or lie about it. Remember, two wrongs don’t make a right. Instead, do a couple of things I’ve suggested above, because two rights can sometimes right a wrong.