Daily Leadership Tip #10 – Instead of Telling People They Are Wrong, Point Out Mistakes Indirectly

Doug Staneart  |  June 1, 2022

Daily Leadership Tip 10-Instead of Telling People They Are Wrong, Point Out Mistakes IndirectlyIn Ben Franklin’s autobiography, he wrote about how in his younger years, he made many enemies because he frequently corrected people publicly when they were wrong.

What he found was that although he was very convincing and had facts on his side, he rarely persuaded anyone that they were wrong.

A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” – Samuel Butler

To make things worse, he noticed that many of these men held grudges against him for years.

Ben Franklin learned from his mistakes. He developed several skills that we can use as well. When someone stated an opinion that was in error, he began to respond with phrases such as, “In many cases, I would probably feel the same as you about this. However, if the facts of the situation were different…”

He also came up with what salespeople now call the “Ben Franklin Close,” in which he drew a line down the middle of a piece of paper. He would then ask the person who differed with him to tell him all the pros of his idea, and he wrote them on one side. He then asked for all the cons and wrote them on the other. The other person usually came to his conclusion by being a little more objective.


One of the best ways to point out mistakes indirectly is to ask questions. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say that you have a person who works for you who is constantly turning in reports after the requested deadline. You might start by giving clarification to your entire team about the importance of the deadline.

Then, if the person continues to turn in the information late, follow up with a question like, “I know that the team is focusing on getting the reports in early. How did you do with your report this week?”

Instead of getting angry, the person will typically try to offer some type of excuse.

When this happens, just follow up with one more question, “Yeah, I can understand how that would be a problem. What are you going to do this week to make sure that it doesn’t cause a challenge for you again?”

If you use this type of questioning, the person is more likely to take responsibility for making sure that the activity gets completed properly. So, let’s take a page from Ben Franklin’s autobiography and never tell someone “you’re wrong.”

Week #2: Conflict Resolution

Principle #10: Point Out Mistakes Indirectly

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author Doug Staneart
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Doug Staneart is president of The Leader's Institute ®. He is based in the Dallas, Texas Region. He is a specialist in corporate team building activities and custom presentation skills seminars.