How to correct someone without offending them

How to correct someone without offending them

If you must tell someone they're wrong, take all the care you can to not sound condescending or pompous.

By Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's Desk)

Published: Mon 25 Mar 2019, 8:20 PM

"I'm smart, you're dumb; I'm big, you're little; I'm right, you're wrong, and there's nothing you can do about it," said Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood in the movie Matilda. He played Matilda's (Mara Wilson) dad in the 1996 movie based on Roald Dahl's book by the same title. That's one way of telling someone they're wrong - not the most politically correct way, though. And definitely not worth a shot in today's workplace where the manager-subordinate relationship has evolved into one of respectful friendship.
But there are times, perhaps several times in a day, when you may find a coworker, colleague, or even your boss, doing things absolutely the wrong way. And I'm not talking about wrongly pronouncing 'mischievous' or 'espresso' or 'Wednesday'. Yes, I know that can be annoying, too, but let's focus on the bigger picture here. We're talking about someone basing their projections on a number 10 per cent off the mark - it may not turn the projections on their head, but will put a dent in them this way or that. Or someone suggesting a wrong route to a new-in-town colleague looking for directions to a meeting. How do you address such a situation? Do you jump in head-first into the presentation or conversation at the first sign of the mistake? Or do you let your coworkers complete their proposition and then interject?
It should definitely be the latter - that too with kid gloves. First, remember that nobody likes a know-it-all who goes around correcting people for the fun of it. If you must tell someone they're wrong, take all the care you can to not sound condescending or pompous. Do it in private, if possible. And start with a genuinely positive note, like: "That was a smart presentation. It does make sense to explore the market domain. And you may want to confirm that market size with some external sources." You could even ask a question instead of pointing out the error directly, like: "What if they went via Route 11? Will that be too crowded at this time of the day?" Try to be practical, not patronising. That's how the most influential managers and leaders in the world ensure productivity and positivity.

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