It just sucks to be wrong and eating crow. You lose face. The other gloats and you are embarrassed for being inadequate, stupid, incompetent. And that’s just when you’re mistaken. If I thought the play started at 8 pm but it started at 7 pm, then I’m mistaken. This kind of mistake is fairly irrefutable and black-and-white. We might’ve argued about it before we missed the play, but likely not after.
Then there’s the type of wrong where you did something that was hurtful, offensive, insensitive, humiliating or rude. Classic Susanna is to assume someone else in the house misplaced something, left trash on the countertop, or left the milk out of the fridge. Couldn’t be me. It’s then hurtful when I accuse someone else of losing something that I didn’t put away. But even worse – this one hasn’t happened for a while – is to accuse someone of unloving or selfish motives only to find out I was completely wrong (“you forgot my birthday!” when an elaborate party was in the works for example).
These scenarios, though greyer than simply being mistaken about an easily proven fact, are still relatively cut-and-dry compared to the really subjective missteps we all make on occasion. For example, I could engage in the same obnoxious behavior accusing someone of being selfish or unloving, but now based on a he said-she said scenario. We cannot necessarily prove either of us right or wrong, one way or another. Yet we may engage in an escalating conflict until we have World War III in the middle of Home Depot. Given that the vast majority of conflicts take two (even the so-called victim or martyr in an argument has culpability too), the entire dynamic is simply harmful and counter-productive to the relationship.
In addition to the strong likelihood that we both have fault, being able and willing to acknowledge one’s own role in the dynamic can have surprisingly positive outcomes. If I’m willing to acknowledge that I got upset prematurely (sensitive people can sense this even if I say nothing), used a judgmental or harsh tone, chose a wounding word, picked an argued about something inconsequential, then I am taking responsibility for my actions. Paradoxically, when I acknowledge my role, even if it’s slight, I then develop a sense of honor from my actions, especially if I acknowledge my role to my sparring partner.
Honor is not the only benefit from finding my own culpability. I also am diminishing my hypocrisy and judgment, both tendencies of human nature. Perhaps most importantly, I am also mitigating the damage to the relationship in which I have carefully invested in until the moment that I just lost it. Finally, because it is also human nature to reciprocate, most people are subsequently willing to find their own fault in the argument. Both parties can walk away feeling like they were treated fairly.
Honor. Avoiding hypocrisy and judgment. Restoring a relationship. Reciprocity. Sounds like a win-win-win-win to me.