No matter how hard we try, sometimes we are all wrong. Admitting our own mistakes is not easy, so sometimes we continue to stubbornly stand our ground instead of facing the truth.
Our propensity to confirm our point of view makes us look for and find evidence of our own rightness, even if there is none. In such situations, we experience what in psychology is called cognitive dissonance. It is discomfort from the clash of our attitudes, beliefs and ideas about ourselves, contradicting each other.
Let’s say you consider yourself a kind person. Being rude to someone will make you feel very uncomfortable. To deal with this, you will begin to deny that you are wrong and look for excuses for being rude.
Why do we cling to our delusions
Cognitive dissonance compromises our sense of self. In order to reduce the feeling of discomfort, we are forced to either change our opinion about ourselves, or admit that we are wrong. Of course, in most cases we choose the path of least resistance.
Perhaps you will try to get rid of the discomfort by finding an explanation for your mistake. Psychologist Leon Festinger put forward the theory of cognitive dissonance in the middle of the last century, when he studied a small religious community. Members of this community believed that the end of the world would come on December 20, 1954, from which they would be able to escape on a flying saucer. In his book When the Prophecy Failed, Festinger described how, after the failed apocalypse, the members of the sect stubbornly continued to adhere to their beliefs, claiming that God simply decided to spare people. Clinging to this explanation, the cultists coped with cognitive dissonance.
The feeling of dissonance is very unpleasant, and we try our best to get rid of it. By apologizing, we admit that we were wrong and accept the dissonance, and this is quite painful.
According to researchWhen we persist in being wrong, we often feel better than when we admit it. Scientists have noticed that those who refuse to apologize for their mistakes suffer less from lower self-esteem, loss of authority and control over the situation than those who admit they were wrong and apologize.
By apologizing, we seem to hand over power to another person who can save us from embarrassment and forgive us, or maybe not accept our apologies and add to our mental anguish. Those who choose not to apologize at first experience a sense of power and strength.
This sense of self-power seems very attractive, but in the long run it entails unpleasant consequences. By refusing to apologize for our mistakes, we jeopardize the trust that holds relationships together, as well as prolong conflict, build up aggression, and fuel our desire for revenge.
Without admitting our mistakes, we reject constructive criticism, which helps us get rid of bad habits and become better.
Other study, conducted by scientists from Stanford, showed that people are more willing to take responsibility for their mistakes when they are confident that they can change their own behavior. However, such confidence does not come easily.
How to learn to admit your mistakes
The first thing to do is to learn to notice manifestations of cognitive dissonance in yourself. As a rule, it makes itself felt by confusion, stress, mental imbalance or guilt. These feelings don’t necessarily mean you’re wrong. However, they clearly indicate that it would not hurt to look at the situation impartially and try to objectively answer the question of whether you are right or not.
It is also worth learning to recognize your usual excuses and explanations. Recall situations in which you were wrong and knew about it, but tried to justify yourself in one way or another. Remember how you felt when you struggled to find rational reasons for your controversial behavior. The next time you have these sensations, treat them as an indicator of cognitive dissonance.
Do not forget that people tend to forgive much more often and more than they seem. Honesty and objectivity speak of you as an open person with whom you can do business.
In situations where you are clearly wrong, by not wanting to admit it, you demonstrate a lack of self-confidence. He who vigorously defends his delusions literally screams about his weakness.