Talk About Your Own Mistakes First

October 12, 2012

It isn’t nearly so difficult to listen to a recital of your faults if the person criticizing begins by humbly admitting that he, too, is far from impeccable.

In his book How to Develop Self Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking, Dale Carnegie talks about E.G. Dillistone, an engineer in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, who was having problems with his new secretary.

It seems letters he dictated were coming to his desk for signature with two or three spelling mistakes per page. Mr. Dillistone reported how he handled this:

“Like many engineers, I have not been noted for my excellent English or spelling. For years I have kept a little black thumb-index book for words I had trouble spelling. When it became apparent that merely pointing out the errors was not going to cause my secretary to do more proofreading and dictionary work, I resolved to take another approach. When the next letter came to my attention that had errors in it, I sat down with the typist and said, “ ‘Somehow this word doesn’t look right. It’s one of the words I always have had trouble with. That’s the reason I started this spelling book of mine. (I opened the book to the appropriate page.) Yes, here it is. I’m very conscious of the spelling now because people do judge us by our letters, and misspellings make us look less professional.’

“I don’t know whether she copied my system or not, but since that conversation, her frequency of spelling errors has been significantly reduced.”

Always remember that the most effective leaders will ask questions instead of giving direct orders. Here’s an example of this important principle in action from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training of Central Ohio:

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