The Four Barriers to Connection – Error Blindness


By Tasha M. Troy

John Maxwell says that “connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”IMG_7291

If this is the case, it really makes sense for us to learn how to connect better in order to have greater influence with the people around us. Today I’m continuing a short series on the four barriers to connection.

The Barrier:

Barrier number three is error blindness.

How does it feel to be wrong? This is the question posed by Kathryn Schulz in her TED Talk On Being Wrong.  Most people answer “bad,” “not good,” “embarrassing,” “uncomfortable.” However, Ms. Schulz points out that those are answers to a different question – what does it feel like to realize you are wrong?

It is extremely rare that someone is intentionally wrong!  Ms. Schulz emphasizes that being wrong feels like being right.  This is error blindness.

When we are wrong but think someone else “just isn’t getting it,” we will make one of three assumptions:

  • the ignorance assumption – they just don’t understand so I have to explain it again;
  • the idiocy assumption – they’re kind of stupid, so I have to explain it again; or
  • the evil assumption – they get it, they’re just making life difficult for me.

Anytime we make these assumptions, whether we are in the right or not, it interferes with our ability to connect with the people we are interacting with.

A Personal Story:

I work hard to develop a connection with my students. I know that working with adults, if they don’t trust you, they won’t follow your instruction and therefore not succeed or grow to their potential.  I know I can’t please everyone, but for about 90% of my students I am able to connect with them.

One year I had a student who was very resistant to my feedback, very resistant to my teaching and coaching. Because I know I put a lot of effort into connecting with my students, I assumed the problem was on her end. I thought that maybe she just didn’t connect with my personality and teaching style.

However, through indirect methods, I learned that she had gotten the impression that I disliked her personally. When I heard this, I was shocked.  At that point, I had a choice, whether to believe what I was hearing and act on it or to continue assuming I was right.

Fortunately, I accepted the feedback and took deliberate steps to correct the misconception and to build a better relationship with that particular student. As a result, she became more open to feedback and coaching, and was able to complete the program successfully.

The Solution:

In order to escape from error blindness, we must seek to connect on common ground.

In his book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, John Maxwell describes five connecting principles and five connecting practices.  One of the practices is that connectors connect on common ground. He John Maxwell give several ways in which people can cultivate a mindset of common ground

  • Availability – spend time with others
  • Listening – understand the other’s perspective
  • Questions – be interested in others
  • Thoughtfulness – think of others and thank them
  • Openness – let people in
  • Likability – care about people
  • Humility – think of yourself less to think of others more
  • Adaptability – move from my world to theirs

As we practice these elements and establish a common ground, you’ll find that you are less likely to fall into error blindness because you’ll be open to other people’s ideas to begin with.


Take It Deeper

If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions on Fridays.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net



Kathryn Schulz: On Being Wrong

“The Four Traps that Disconnect You” from Real Influence: Persuade without Pushing and Gain without Giving In by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen.  Read my review of Real Influence

The first barrier: The Fight or Flight Response

The second barrier: The Habit Handicap

The fourth barrier: The Double Curse of Knowledge




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