Tips for High-Impact Teamwork: A New Year’s resolution your teammates will love

Tyler Reimschisel, MD, MHPE

by Tyler Reimschisel, MD

For my last several articles in Tips for High-Impact Teamwork, we have been discussing how our brain processes external inputs to create reality as a storyline of cause and effect. I have repeatedly emphasized that we have several egocentric biases to which we are mostly, if not entirely, oblivious. These include how our internal biases influence our interpretation of what is occurring in the world we experience (the “lens problem”), how what we attend to in our environment leads individuals to process the same event differently (the “neck problem”), and how we equate our brain’s storyline of our world as objective reality and truth itself (Epley, 2014). This last bias is called naive realism, and it can be summarized as, “I’m OK; you’re biased.” 

One of the most unpleasant implications of naive realism and these other egocentric biases is that we are wrong, at least partially, much more often than we realize. So, at the risk of bringing up an uncomfortable topic, how do you feel emotionally when you are wrong? Please take a moment and reflect on this question. What do you feel when you are wrong? You can write down your emotions on a scrap piece of paper or type it out as a digital note. 

So, what did you write? When I first heard this question from Kathryn Schulz*, a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, I thought, “embarrassed,” “foolish,” “vulnerable,” “frustrated with myself” and even “angry.” Then Schulz continued her TedTalk by explaining that I had answered a different question (Schulz, TEDTalk 2011). Did you as well? Most of us answer how we emotionally feel when we find out we are wrong. But she clarified her question, “How do you emotionally feel when you are wrong before you realize you are wrong? I frequently ask this question in the teamwork workshops and retreats that our office offers. After some further reflection and discussion, someone ultimately responds, “Like I am right.” Exactly! We feel right even when we later find out we are wrong. 

When I say “wrong,” I don’t necessarily mean thoroughly and entirely wrong. We may be only partially wrong. But that is a distinction without any practical difference. Typically, when we feel that we are right, we are not entertaining the possibility that we may be even a little bit wrong. In our mind, being even partially wrong is the same as simply being wrong. We usually feel that we are completely right! Welcome to naive realism. 

So, if we cannot rely on our feelings or awareness of being wrong to clue us in when we are wrong, what can we do to help mitigate this potential problem? I have one suggestion to offer. Maybe you can set up a realistic expectation for yourself at the start of every day, and then you won’t feel so bad when you find out later in the day that you are wrong about something?. Specifically, I recommend starting every day by asking yourself, “What am I going to be wrong about today?” Then, if and when you actually are wrong that day, you will be ready to learn and grow from the situation. You can go throughout your day anticipating errors and being curious about when they will occur. You will likely be more open to situations where you are partially wrong. We know that curiosity is a great motivator for learning, and this could be a very potent way to improve your learning and growth. 

Maybe reframing your mindset to anticipate wrongness could be your New Year’s resolution? You could develop a new habit of asking yourself, “I wonder what I am going to be wrong about today.” This resolution is free, has the potential to create great opportunities for learning from others’ perspectives and I bet your coworkers, teammates, friends and family will love this, too!  

Before ending this week’s article, please remember our new opportunities to build community within and outside our Case Western Reserve campus. Each Tuesday at noon we are offering various ways to connect with students, staff and faculty at CWRU, in Cleveland and at other institutions. The upcoming schedule includes the following sessions: 

We hope these experiences help broaden your network and build stronger relationships. 

Please check out our Connections webpages for more details. The Huddle Calendar also lists upcoming activities.

*Interesting fact—Kathryn Schulz grew up in Shaker Heights and graduated from Shaker Heights High School!


Epley N. Mindwise. Vintage Books, 2014.

Schulz K. “On being wrong.” TED2011, March 2011.