There is no joy in being wrong. Admitting when we are wrong is often a difficult thing for us to do.
But we all know we are not born perfect, and are sure to have at least some character or personality flaws. It is a complicated question to answer, but experts suspect our genetics can affect certain personality traits and behaviours.
Our principles and values can be entrenched by as early as 7 years of age.
In the early 90s, I was looking for something to do after a business venture ended. My financial planner came around to review my portfolio. Upon hearing I was looking for something new to do, he suggested I consider financial planning. He thought I would enjoy the industry. He put me in touch with his manager, and after five interviews, I was invited to join the organisation.
A week later, I was on a three-week intensive training course at the company. There were about 20 of us new recruits attending the night classes. Men and women from diverse previous careers, none of them financial planning. It was a particular strategy of the company to not hire from within the industry, but to rather train their financial planners from scratch. This managed to set the company apart on many fronts, as their training was considered to be the best in the industry.
One evening, two weeks into the training, the facilitator announced we were going to conduct an experiment. He held up a tape-recorder (a recording device used in the 90’s) and called out my name and another gent, as the guinea pigs. He explained how it would work. We each had one-minute to try to convince the other, of our ‘given’ point of view on a controversial subject.
He chose the culling of elephants as the topic. He instructed me to hold the point of view that culling was necessary to protect the future of elephants. My counterpart had to be against the culling of elephants. He sent us into an adjoining room and told us to come back when we have completed the two one-minute recordings.
We left the class and went into the room next door. We took five minutes to get our arguments straight. Then we each took a turn at convincing the other while recording the conversation. I went first, then he took his turn. We completed the exercise and went back into the class.
The facilitator explained the goal of the exercise to the class again. It was to convince the other person on a point that they are directly opposed to. He then played the recordings we had made.
Within 5 seconds of what I believed to be the most convincing argument ever proposed for the culling of elephants, the whole class, including the facilitator, burst out laughing. He completed playing the one-minute clip while the class carried on laughing.
He then played how my counterpart handled his one-minute, and the laughter changed to applause.
The facilitator went on to explain. Choosing me and my counterpart was not by accident. He had noted over the prior two weeks in class, who was a ‘teller,’ and who was an ‘asker’. The one ‘tells’ without listening, the ‘asker’ convinces people through proposing pertinent questions.
I was a ‘teller’ of the worst kind.
In my allocated minute, I never asked one question. All I did was ‘tell’ – I never gave my counterpart even 1-second out of the 60 to talk. Whereas, he asked valuable questions, discovered my views, and established a report.
We had a productive conversation.
Although I felt embarrassed at being laughed at, it’s a lesson I have never forgotten. I still need to remind myself of it daily. It was daunting to discover what I thought was one of my strengths, was in fact a flaw. I didn’t want to be a teller. So, I embraced my flaw as something I would need to change within me. I understood it was wrong and took action to change it.
Understanding that a character trait, bias, prejudice or perception, could be wrong, is a great starting point. Confronting our flaws is scary. Be brave, have courage, and confront them. Take conscious action to address your flaws. The world will thank you for it.
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