• David Strittmatter

How to convince people - never hesitate to admit a mistake

One who makes no mistakes makes nothing


  • Admitting one’s own mistakes is an essential requirement for building trust with other people

  • We highly respect people for their audacity to take responsibility for them

  • Failure and mistakes are natural and unavoidable

Practical advice:

  • Track your mistakes and how you dealt with them in a mistake journal

  • Admit your mistakes as fast as possible

  • Adopt the right mindest: Owning one’s own mistakes is a real strength

Dear friend,

Currently, I read and learn a lot about sales.

However, not in its traditional sense but in a broad context: Convincing someone to give us something (time, energy, money, etc) they've got in exchange for something we’ve got.

In order to enhance this skill, one has to learn how human beings can be influenced.

In today’s article, I'll illustrate why admitting mistakes is a key strategy in influencing others, point out ways to overcome one's own ego, and help you to become more confident in showing your weaknesses.

Admitting being wrong is hard

When we make a mistake affecting another person, proactively addressing this issue feels unpleasant and hurts our pride. For instance, imagine you’re passionate about health and nutrition, and boast of your detailed knowledge. While you try to convince your mother to stop using coconut oil, your sibling joins the conversation and reinforces the argument that this oil is most versatile and thus best because it has a high thermal resistance. You totally forgot about this aspect and why it could be important to your mother in your argumentation. Admitting this lack of knowledge, particularly regarding your passion for nutrition, will feel very inconvenient in this situation.

Further, often we're not able to differentiate our person from our actions. Every human makes mistakes; there's no perfect creature. Most people know that and apply this certainty to other people making a mistake but not to themselves. Just because you made a wrong assumption, you’re not dumb. Stop equating your identity and your actions.

Moreover, admitting being wrong makes us feel vulnerable and weak. For example, telling your boss that you’re responsible for messing up the last project may seem to hurt your career. However, as the two aforementioned reasons, this rationale is also paradoxical and a fallacy.

Never hesitate to admit a mistake

Yes, taking full responsibility for your mistakes is hard. Nevertheless, it is an essential requirement for building trust with other people. Ex-Navy Seal Commander and best-seller author Jock Willink writes in his book Extreme Ownership that admitting and owning mistakes is inalienable for a successful leader. It’s a skill anyone who wants to convince people sustainably has to be capable of. It’s our nature that we cannot trust people how cannot take responsibility for their wrongdoings.

Moreover, admitting being wrong is not a weakness but rather a sign of strength. As every human being knows how hard exposing one’s own faults is, we highly respect people for their audacity to take responsibility for them.

Eventually, failure and mistakes are natural and unavoidable. From a statistical and logical point of view, you cannot not do them. No matter how well prepared you are, how much work you put in, how much experience you gathered - once in a while you will make a mistake. And the best thing you can do is to have the right mindset, conquer your ego, and take responsibility for it.

How to control your ego

What greatly helped me to overcome my pride was a mistake journal in which I tracked my mistakes, whether I admitted them, and the consequence of my behavior. For instance, I noted down this incident:

There’s a guy in our gym who literally threw a barbell with +100kg on the floor when he’s doing deadlifts, causing incredibly annoying, loud noise. I confronted this person, told him how annoying his technique was and how wrong he’s doing his exercise. He totally blocked and defended himself (as almost any human being would do in such a situation). I knew that he would respond in this manner, but I also understood that people love winning and being right. Hence, I went back to my exercise, waited 10 mins, and got back to him. I told him that I was sorry for being rude and so confrontational, and that I might just have a bad day. And you know what? He immediately empathized with me, changed his defensive stance to a more open one, told me that he can totally understand me, and will take care to make less noise in the future. I might have hurt my ego, admitted being wrong even though I wasn’t, and told someone sorry to whom I really disliked, though, I obtained what I wanted.

Another simple but effective habit you can implement is to admit your mistakes as fast as possible. In the moment you find out that you’re wrong, you tell the affected person sorry and take responsibility for your mistake. Acting immediately greatly helps you to overcome cognitive paralysis caused by your ego and irrational thoughts.

What’s most effective but also most difficult to overcome your ego and admit your wrongdoings easily: Adopting the right mindset. Once you believe that owning your mistakes is a sign of real strength, you won’t have any troubles to conquer your ego again. For example, my girlfriend is still not 100% used to how I react if she’s teasing me or trying to scratch my ego in an argument as I couldn’t care less. From the day I understood that taking responsibility, owning one’s own mistakes, and being true about one’s own flaws are signs of real power, I have never had any trouble to overcome my ego.

Self-improvement tips based on my learnings. One article per week. No spam ever.

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