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How to 'correct mistakes made by others'

Average: 3.3 (12 votes)


This weekend I was unfortunate enough to find myself at a party which, to be honest, was not the kind of party that I would normally be seen dead at. Truth be told, the only reason that I went was because my wife wanted me to go. I am, of course, the boss in the family, but only because my wife says it's okay. Anyway...

My wife is a ballet teacher, and basically a member of what I like to call 'the dance-world', which is a parallel  dimension  where people walk without actually touching the floor, gesture  in sweeping slow-motion, and eat finger food by osmosis  . Long story short, the party we were invited to was a 'dance-world' party, which means that I was surrounded by a crowd of long, willowy women who sprinkle their speech liberally with French expressions like 'grand jete en tournant' and 'grand battement', and who can happily talk about the art of movement versus the science of movement until hell freezes over.

Needless to say, I very quickly got bored of waiting for hell to freeze over. After what seemed like an eternity, I sidled up to my wife, who was caught in the middle of an animated discussion about something balletic, and muttered out of the corner of my mouth... "I'm bored".

My wife gave me the kind of look normally reserved for annoying children who should be neither seen nor heard, and whispered back, "Well, try to join in the conversation then!"

So I did.

"So... 'grande jete en tournant..." said I brightly, filling the first available space in the conversation. "Isn't that what they call a large plane as it changes direction mid-flight?"


"Ha-ha?" I added, indicating that I was, of course, joking.

"That's absolute rubbish!" said a willowy woman with an unfortunate nose, and then proceeded to ignore me completely for the rest of the evening.

Of course what I said was absolute rubbish! But I couldn't help thinking that she could have made this clear in a much better way than 'That's absolute rubbish!' And so, after the longest introduction ever, here's how to...


... Correct what is not accurate...

  • "Actually, that's not quite right..."
  •   "Surely that's not right?"
  • "I don't think that's correct, is it?"
  • "In fact, it's exactly the opposite."
  • "Forgive me for contradicting you, but..." (very formal!)
  • "That's not exactly what I had in mind."
  •   "Actually, I don't really think I could find the time."


And of course, keep in mind that you're not actually correcting at all unless you follow up with an explanation of why what is not accurate is, actually, inaccurate!


Do you  feel comfortable correcting people when they make a mistake? Is it easier to correct some people than others?  Why?   Add your comments  below!


By Danny, teacher at EC Malta English school