There is a difference in approach between confronting someone who
lied, and confronting someone who unknowingly made a false statement.
If somebody knowingly avoided the truth, or lied, the real questions
when confronting the person are:
- "Why did you say that?"
- "Do you have reasons not to trust me?"
If somebody just came to false conclusions, and it sounds like this is
what you're mainly interested in, the best thing is to discuss matters
- "I thought so too at first, but something else is true."
The point in both cases is not to confront one directly so that the
other person has means of escaping the situation swiftly. If you tell
someone, "You are completely wrong about this, and here are the
facts," the second part of the sentence (and all following arguments)
will be lost due to an instant, instinctive defensive reaction.
Since you're likely to not want that to happen, the best thing is to
"switch sides" first, like outlined above. Further examples of
introducing such discussion are:
- "I thought so too"
- "Indeed, that's what we were led to believe"
- "I understand why you think so"
- "A while ago, I came to similar conclusion"
- "That's true on the surface, I have to agree"
You can even take the understatement a step further and ensure the
other one will see both of you as a team in this:
- "I'm not quite sure yet, but maybe together we can find out the
As you can see, this makes sure that whatever could before be seen as
an attack will now come off as self-criticism -- in other words,
criticism not directed at the other person.
Whatever strategy you decide on, ask yourself: "Why do I want to
clarify this issue?"
There could be several reasons. For some of them, the best advice is
to just let it go:
Good: You want to get the facts straight before constructively
discussing further issues.
Not so good: You simply want to set the record straight because the
issue keeps bothering you.
Not good: You want to win an argument to strengthen a position of
Also, clarify to yourself the balance of power between you and the one
you want to confront. If the other person has a higher status (a boss,
a teacher, parents), any criticism might be seen as affront against
this status. If the other person has a lower status (a student, kids),
any criticism might instantly break on the defensive shell the person
built up, because there is no accepted place for counter-argument.
Therefore, the optimum position for both of you would be one of
Last not least, make sure to confront the other one in a friendly way,
and with no other persons present. Do not make it seem like the issue
is very important to you. Swiftly present the facts, and go on to
another issue. Never wait for the other one to instantly realize a
mistake and present you with an apology; more often than not, people
need a day (and a good night's sleep) to reflect new facts, and
realize on their own they were wrong. After a while you may notice the
other one sees the facts as you do, without the both of you ever
having officially and explicitly agreed on it.
I hope this helps!