Why are some people supersensitive about being wrong?

By , April 17, 2013 6:01 pm

iStock_000012736008Small copy“The fixed mindset makes you concerned with how you’ll be judged; the growth mindset makes you concerned with improving.”

~ Carol Dweck, Mindset the New Psychology of Success.


Have you ever met someone like this? Who’s supersensitive about being wrong?

Over the last 25 years learning has been both my profession and a personal passion.

I believe that people’s ability to learn and grow is strongly influenced by their ability to set their mind for success. Mindsets are beliefs that start life as thoughts. They have gained power by being replayed over and over and have solidified to become strong beliefs.

I often get to observe people’s resistance to learning and growing sometimes because they falsely believe that their ability is fixed. Instead they decide to play safe and hide behind their existing ability and become over cautious and scared to try something new.

There is a difference between having a fixed mindset and a growth mindset towards learning and growing. The different behaviors ‘play out’ regularly in business meetings, the classroom and during coaching sessions with clients.

Here’s an example…

My client Jon was struggling with one of his team, a corporate manager called Brian. He was difficult to give feedback to because Brian was hypersensitive about making mistakes and being wrong.

Brian’s fear of making mistakes in front of others made him feel like his ability was always on the line. This put him under a huge amount of pressure when learning something new. He felt like everyone was watching him and judging him. Failure wasn’t an option for him, it was something to avoid at all costs.

His inner security system kicked in to protect him whenever he felt that his ability was being threatened. His lizard brain and ego would take over. As a result, Brain had become supersensitive about being wrong or making mistakes. He would feel resistance when anyone gave him feedback and become defensive or he’d back down and play safe. His limiting beliefs were holding him back.

Here’s the thing…

You can literally change your mind!

I believe that you can grow your mind for success (my business is based on this principle!).

Here’s how we helped Brian…

Brian had set his mind to focus on the avoidance of mistakes. He wanted to prove his ability to the world and had put a lot of effort into validating himself with others. He’d become frightened of being rejected for not being smart or for making a mistake. He wanted to set everything up perfectly so he would succeed – if he couldn’t do this then he wouldn’t try.

  • It’s okay to be imperfectly perfect – You are the sum of what you’ve learned so far and learning can be messy! Making mistakes are just part of the process. You develop your skills over time. EVERYONE makes mistakes and screws up at times!
  • You can develop yourself – Potential is unlimited. Ability is NOT fixed. And you can change it. Knowing your current level of ability allows you to be open and honest with yourself – It creates a starting point from which to learn. You need to know: Where am I now? In order to learn effectively – this involves feedback and observation.
  • You can change your mindset – Everyone starts out as a novice – If you take this view then you can a safe environment for learning – That’s why you’re here to learn and grow. Others have more experience and can be great teachers for you. Open your mind.

…It’s totally okay to make mistakes! It’s part of learning, growing and being alive!



2 Responses to “Why are some people supersensitive about being wrong?”

  1. Al C says:

    If we learn from our mistakes and yet don’t let ourselves or we refuse to make mistakes through remaining ‘safe’ how can we learn, how can we possibly move forward.

    Thank you once again Elaine.

  2. elaine says:

    Hi Al thanks for your comments.

    We are sometimes conditioned to believe that mistakes are failures and should be avoided at ALL costs instead of opportunities to grow.

    No one is perfect and it’s natural to make some mistakes as you’re learning something new.

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