A couple of good relationship rules I follow are never correct someone in public (unless they could get immediately injured in some way), and don’t correct someone at all in conversation as it relates to trivialities.
Both of these things make the person you are correcting feel bad, and when it comes to developing relationships, making people feel bad would be on the list of things that don’t help!
We are often in conversations, whether it be with people we love or people we are just getting to know, and whether it is in business or a social setting, where either we or they say something incorrect, but not really that important to the conversation or in general. I do it all the time, and you probably do too. So, as the conversation is going along, I say something on a topic that is not quite right. The person I am speaking with jumps in to correct me. Maybe I think I am right, so now we stop to debate. Debate often involves a little bit of emotional investment because each side tends to be invested in being right. Healthy debate with mutual respect is a good thing…but that’s not what I am referring to here…this is simply trivial. Anyway, once emotions get involved, they are a potential game changer. Now, the conversation we were having has stopped, because we are debating something that is mostly irrelevant to what we were originally talking about. Since I am non-confrontational, I will generally for the sake of rapport, just say “you’re probably right” so we can move on. Again, I stress, this is on an issue that is not important, either to the conversation or to the big picture in life. As a rule, I will not do this to someone in a conversation. I am interested in developing rapport, not showing I am smart (which in fact is also debatable:-)
With this in mind, I bring you the situation of “Hal.” I, it appears, am now Hal, in the mind of a very nice man named Cecil at the YMCA. Cecil is a retired postal worker who works out in the morning the same time that I do. He often will end up on the treadmill right next to me. He is a very nice widower, who enjoys engaging others in conversation, and loves to talk politics, and the bad things that are going on in the world, with whoever is on the treadmill next to him. I, on the other hand, do not like to talk politics (because I see most politicians as people who are more focused on keeping their position rather than affecting true change for the betterment of all), and I look for the good in the world while I acknowledge that bad things happen, and have been happening since the beginning of time. I also,do my morning reading on the treadmill and rarely, if ever, engage in conversation while I work out.
I am interested in developing rapport, not showing I am smart (which in fact is also debatable:-)
Many times Cecil would occupy the treadmill next to me, talk about various things, and I would politely give him my attention until he was finished, and then go back to my reading. Over time Cecil finally understood that I am a reader in the morning and not a talker, and now only engages me briefly. For about the first six months, Cecil would ask me my name from time to time, and I would tell him, only to have him ask me again a week or two later. About two months ago, Cecil called me Hal. Now he has called me a variety of other names in the past, which he forgot a week or two later, before he asked me my name again. So when he called me Hal, I let it go and we went on our way.
It appears however that Hal has finally stuck in his mind, and so now every time I see him he says “Good morning Hal” and I say “Good Morning Cecil.” I changed my schedule a few months ago and now get to the gym at 6:00am instead of 6:30, which means Cecil gets to his treadmill now after I am finished on mine. We have no other interaction in life and I see no reason to tell him my name is Todd not Hal. As far as I am concerned, he can call me Hal. So I ask you, would you correct Cecil?