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When should you correct others, when not?
Old 10-03-2014, 12:27 PM   #1
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When should you correct others, when not?

Several of us had an enlightening discussion on this subject at dinner last night. I assume we've all missed the line at times, overcorrecting or undercorrecting others in hindsight. I know which way I err more often, though I'm consciously trying to do better.

It's pretty obvious what the outer boundaries are (ie, correct if not doing so puts someone in danger, don't correct when the error is a trivial distraction), probably not worthy of discussion. It's where/how you draw the line(s) that can be tricky & interesting.

Thought there might be some thoughtful perspectives here.
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  • Before you fact-check someone, consider the stakes of addressing the issue
  • Use a mild, nonconfrontational tone when questioning or correcting someone
  • Speak up if it would be irresponsible to withhold a correction.
How can I politely correct people? - CNN.com
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Old 10-03-2014, 02:33 PM   #2
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Oh man, this is a hot button for me.

First off, that article lost me almost right away...

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If you're going to point out someone's errors -- ... -- you should proceed with caution.

That's because even when you're acting with the best of intentions, no one enjoys being corrected.
Well, there you go. I 100% 'enjoy' ('appreciate' would be a better term) being corrected. Why the heck would I want to go around saying things wrong, saying the wrong things, or believing things that are not true? Please, please, please - correct me!

We go through years of schooling, and sometimes pay big tuition dollars.... to be corrected when we are wrong! I'll provide this service for free, and would appreciate anyone else returning the favor.

Now sure, it needs to be done tactfully (which depends on the relationship and scenario), but I also don't think people should be sensitive about this either.

Even I would not have interrupted someone on the pronunciation of Massachusetts or espresso on a first date - but with family/friends in a causal situation, I might. My thinking is, better to be corrected in a 'safe' environment than to sound somewhat stupid (less educated, ignorant?) in a formal setting.

I'll maybe comment on this more fully later...

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Finally, if you have a friend who makes the same error all the time and it drives you insane, go ahead and say something. But be subtle, and phrase the correction as a question: "Isn't Mary 49, not 50?"

That allows your chum to say, "Oh, you know, you're right," as if she had come to that conclusion on her own.
but yes, I know someone who makes the same errors (plural - he has dozens of them) repeatedly. He also talks a lot, so has many more opportunities for error than most other people. And yes, it drives me nuts. They are almost like Yogi-isms, but without the thought or cleverness behind them. I'll stop now before I blow a gasket!

-ERD50
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Old 10-03-2014, 03:06 PM   #3
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Too much trouble...

I like to read, and so probably have more useless trivia information stuck in my brain than many, but what a good way to ruin an otherwise pleasant conversation than to start on politics or religion, or anything where opinions get formed based on what someone wants to believe, and not "facts".

I do sometimes want to tell people of that recent invention called a "search engine", especially on Facebook.
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Old 10-03-2014, 04:53 PM   #4
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Based on observation of others the past few weeks, one should only correct another when:

1) You're right and they are wrong.
AND
2) the topic is religion, politics, or foreign affairs.

The matter can be considered fully resolved once each party has been relocated to the back of their designated squad car.
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Old 10-03-2014, 06:35 PM   #5
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Too painful to discuss...
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Old 10-03-2014, 06:41 PM   #6
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I'm similar to ERD. I really don't mind being corrected. "Now Clif you ignorant slut"isn't my favorite way of being corrected.

At times I've been genuinely please to be corrected.

"It is not what you don't know that will get you in trouble, it is what you know that ain't so, that is dangerous."
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Old 10-03-2014, 06:58 PM   #7
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Now that the OP has been corrected, here's another article on
Learning to Love Criticism that recently appeared in the NY Times.

Warning! Article discusses performance reviews and especially how men and women are different.
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Old 10-03-2014, 06:59 PM   #8
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The column in the OP gives some useful guidelines. I appreciate being corrected if I make a factual error, and I even appreciate being "corrected" in more subjective cases if it leads to a good discussion. But I let factual errors that others make go by frequently if calling attention to the issue would likely lead to hurt feelings, look nit-picky, or derail the conversation.
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Old 10-03-2014, 07:12 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by LOL! View Post
Warning! Article discusses performance reviews and especially how men and women are different.
I didn't find the attempt at quantifying this to be very convincing. The underlying data gathering (here) involved a review and "grading" by a single researcher who knew the gender of the rater and ratee as she did the very subjective evaluations of comments.
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Old 10-03-2014, 07:52 PM   #10
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All I can say is that my need to correct others has declined greatly over time.
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Old 10-03-2014, 08:13 PM   #11
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All I can say is that my need to correct others has declined greatly over time.
I find it interesting that you describe it as a 'need'. I see it as a service to others.

For example, I recently mispronounced a word that I guess I've read fairly often, but rarely heard used in normal conversation. A family member corrected me. Great! Now I won't make that mistake in front of strangers who would not be comfortable enough to correct me, and would just think I was not so bright to mispronounce that word.

I don't know if they felt the 'need' to correct me or not, but I'm glad they did. I would not have benefited from their remaining silent, regardless the reason.


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I'm similar to ERD. I really don't mind being corrected. "Now Clif you ignorant slut"isn't my favorite way of being corrected. ...
I don't even mind the 'you ignorant...' part. Odds are, that is coming from someone I know well enough that we can throw jabs like that at each other and laugh about it. It's good to have friends you are that comfortable with (OK, correct me for ending a sentence with a preposition! - hmmm, how would you say that correctly in casual conversation?). And if it isn't a good-natured jab, well that person is likely just reminding me they are an arse, in case I forgot.

-ERD50
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Old 10-03-2014, 09:05 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
All I can say is that my need to correct others has declined greatly over time.
Sounds about right!

There is so much nastiness in the world we should put the emphasis on positive (and don't forget thoughtful) interactions.
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Old 10-03-2014, 10:07 PM   #13
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If the critic's purpose is to keep me out of major or minor trouble, I humbly accept correction.

If the critic mainly seems to be seeking self-vindication, my back is right up there with Everest, even if I'm not the one being criticized. For example, there is a rash on my FB page of people who constantly refer to portions of the population as "idiots," "morons," and "incurably stupid," while announcing that calling someone "retarded" is cruel. I, frankly, can't distinguish one insult from another.

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Old 10-04-2014, 01:18 AM   #14
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For minor inaccuracies such as regional misprononciations, it's critical that the person doing the correcting is able to do it in a way that allows the speaker to go on and that doesn't change the course of the conversation. If the correction alters the direction of the conversation and the intended point can not be made, then the corrector needs to be corrected. He probably thinks he is an OK guy when he is actually an assh#le and needs to understand this.
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Old 10-04-2014, 01:24 AM   #15
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All I can say is that my need to correct others has declined greatly over time.
I'm with you on that one.
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Old 10-04-2014, 06:57 AM   #16
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I'm with you on that one.
Ditto.
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Old 10-04-2014, 07:35 AM   #17
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I tend to pick my battles carefully on this one. When you correct someone almost every time you notice they say something wrong, they pronounce something wrong or whatever, the impression you will leave is likely to be one as a smug, pedantic and arrogant person with a lot of people.

I also think people are more likely to take it to heart when you don't "cry wolf" about this sort of thing. I'd also save it for when it is important. If someone is about to go into a job interview and they have some of the facts wrong that are reasonably likely to come up in the interview, yeah, that's one thing. Correcting a mild pronunciation botch on a tough word in casual conversation just makes you look petty and smug, IMO (unless you know the person well enough to know that they would *want* you to do so).
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Old 10-04-2014, 07:49 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
All I can say is that my need to correct others has declined greatly over time.
That's just wrong.
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Old 10-04-2014, 08:43 AM   #19
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No 'tisn't. Count me in the little need to correct others camp. I do tend to show how I have been wrong in the past in a way that allows someone to observe my errors and modify their behavior if they choose.

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Old 10-04-2014, 09:22 AM   #20
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I second the vote on wielding perspective on what's important enough to correct, versus what should be left alone. That gets back to the basic motive for correcting others, which one hopes is simply to keep them out of social trouble (or worse).

I have been a professional editor. Unkempt writing certainly catches my eye. Still, it doesn't set my eyes on fire such that I simply must correct it in order to gain relief.

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I tend to pick my battles carefully on this one. When you correct someone almost every time you notice they say something wrong, they pronounce something wrong or whatever, the impression you will leave is likely to be one as a smug, pedantic and arrogant person with a lot of people.

I also think people are more likely to take it to heart when you don't "cry wolf" about this sort of thing. I'd also save it for when it is important. If someone is about to go into a job interview and they have some of the facts wrong that are reasonably likely to come up in the interview, yeah, that's one thing. Correcting a mild pronunciation botch on a tough word in casual conversation just makes you look petty and smug, IMO (unless you know the person well enough to know that they would *want* you to do so).
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