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Tony Greenwald was quoted in a Forbes article about the difficulty of admitting mistakes, especially regarding the troubles of the Trump administration.


The Myth Of Mistakes: Why Won't The Trump Administration Admit A Mistake?

Stephanie Denning

Well, there goes Andrew McCabe. Along with Rex Tillerson and 18 others . H.R. McMaster and several cabinet secretaries are likely next.

The Trump administration has redefined the meaning of turnover rate. Before the recent announcements of McMaster and Tillerson, The Brookings Institute put the senior staff turnover rate at 43%.

A high turnover rate is a signal of rot and decay within any organization. And yet, for such a whopping turnover rate, little has been said of the decay by those exiting the administration, be it voluntary or not. Most are mum. From a citizen’s vantage point, the comportment, crassness, and chaos synonymous with the administration would surely warrant some sort of admission of regret for joining it in the first place. Apparently not. Why won’t anyone admit they were wrong?

They may, of course, be taking after the most well-known offender, President Trump himself. Regardless of political affiliation, Trump has proven to be particularly prone to not only make factual errors and deliberate misstatements, as documented extensively by The New York Times, but to refuse acknowledgment of any mistake. While it may be a political tactic, it is also an attribute of delusion. The bewildering question since he took office seems to be what exactly is going on inside his head?

Why Are We So Afraid Of Admitting A Mistake?

There are two villains when it comes to mistakes: culture and ego.

    Cultures exist in a variety of environments: Families, groups of friends, institutions and even countries. In the U.S., we have a particular aversion to mistakes. “So embedded is the link between mistakes and stupidity in American culture,” Tavris and Aronson explain. America is a nation that reveres the individual. If you succeed, it is your success; if you fail, it is on you. It’s easy to admit a mistake out of which a successful outcome was born. It’s much harder to do when you’re in the midst of a mistake. In the latter state, to admit a mistake you have to be confident enough that the mistake doesn’t define you. That, of course, is our greatest fear: We think a mistake detracts from our overall value. And in the way many organizations operate culturally, they do. You’re only as good as your last success (or failure), as the saying goes.
    The ego’s job is to put your identity on a pedestal at all times and it is allergic to the idea that you could make a mistake. Tavris and Aronson cite psychologist Anthony Greenwald who “described the self as being ruled by a ‘totalitarian ego’ that ruthlessly destroys information it doesn’t want to hear and, like all fascist leaders, rewrites history from the standpoint of the victor.” The U.S. especially has a culture that feeds the “totalitarian ego.” We would much rather lob shame onto a fallen hero than grace them with forgiveness.Forgiveness is a forgotten muscle. Yet, the antidote to the “totalitarian ego” is precisely that forgiveness. We punish others for their mistakes because we are so afraid of our own. To recognize someone else’s fallibility is to acknowledge your own.

Read the entire article here .