The other week Guy Kawasaki posted a list of 15 job interview tips. Fine advice if you're job-hunting, but I thought one item stood out as something worth trying in everyday life:
Retract your mistakes. If you screw up an answer in an interview, it's cool to say, "That was a crappy answer. Let me try again." If nothing else, it shows that you can realize and correct a mistake in real time. It's better to retract a stupid answer than to leave a permanent impression of cluelessness.
One of the reasons why saying "Wait--I made a mistake" is so powerful is because we hear it so rarely. We commit ourselves to a particular course of action or a solution to a problem, and when it turns out to be wrong, we're often too embarrassed to admit it. So we soldier on, hoping that no one notices--or daring them to call us on it.
But Kawasaki's opening up a door and challenging us to walk through it. Take our egos out of the equation, own up to our mistakes, learn from them, try again. Or even more simply: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.