Disclaimer: This is not legal advice in any capacity. This is written to aid only the social happenings of everyday life.
Many of us have experience being caught red-handed doing something that we shouldn’t have. We’ve been punished for failing to follow valid rules, and for deliberately breaking the ones which we decided were unfair to our sense of freedom or well-being. This article does not encourage you to break rules, but acknowledges that the breaking of some of life’s many rules (not laws) is an inevitable occurrence. With that consideration having been made, our attention is then directed at the question of how we can protect ourselves when we get caught doing what others (not law enforcement) perceive to be wrong.
This article will attempt to present one method of maintaining a perception of innocence if caught doing something that you shouldn’t. A perception of operating with innocent intentions is powerful in limiting the severity of trouble you face amidst life’s varying circumstances.
This article ignores the history of maintaining innocence that you should establish in order to be perceived as such. It’s important to note that a wolf in sheep’s clothing can only pretend to be a sheep for so long. The more instances in which you plead innocence whilst committing guilty acts, the less you’ll be believed. This article is not written for people with ongoing malicious intentions.
The Well-Intentioned, Ignorant, Rule-breaker
You’ve been caught doing something that you shouldn’t have. Whether that be taking a shortcut on a school assignment, not following proper steps during a specific workflow at work, or simply taking advantage of an opportunity in day to day life. If the act itself has been labelled as bad or malicious by an authoritative figure, then attempting to argue against it being so isn’t bound to bring about favorable results.
Now, the task becomes to ensure that your intention is perceived as being a good one, even if the act it produced was not. In this regard, claiming “well-intentioned ignorance” is a powerful tool in establishing a perception of your innocence in the matter. Well-intentioned ignorance means to have a good intention but to execute it poorly. It entails admitting and publicizing your lack of knowledge in your attempts to do something which was well meaning in a manner which broke a rule or two. Portray yourself as being inexperienced at breaking rules, and operating with good intentions.
Note: The “ignorance” portion of “well-intentioned ignorance,” means to be ignorant toward effective ways of breaking rules, not being ignorant of the rules themselves. The message you’re trying to send is one that shows you to be a novice rule breaker, not a novice rule follower. Thereby admitting to knowing the rules of the situation at hand well, is an important step.
The “well-intentioned ignorance” process relies on two steps which you should do your best to connect via dialogue. First, you should exclaim a good intention behind the actions which you got in trouble for. A good intention is one which typically benefits others and not yourself.
A selfish intention would not communicate a sense of innocence to the people who you’ve gotten in trouble with. Attempt to find a reason for why the wrong action that you took was perceived to be beneficial to others around you. A simple, and silly, example is saying that your act of eating the last slice of cake for breakfast ensured that your younger sibling had no choice but to have a healthier meal to start the day.
Next, connect your good intention to the lack of knowledge you possess surrounding being a rule breaker in the matter at hand. Simply saying, “I didn’t know that was a rule,” or “I didn’t know that I can’t do that” is not a believable reason for your ignorance. A claim of believable ignorance is one which makes you look bad at breaking rules, not one which communicates that you didn’t know about those rules. It entails shooting yourself in the foot to not be shot in the head.
For instance, rather than telling your significant other that you didn’t see the “1 cup of sugar” ingredient while baking cookies, a more effective way of communicating well meaning ignorance would be to say that you wanted to limit the sugar in the cupcakes you were baking (well meaning).
Telling them you legitimately perceived that putting half a cup, instead of a full cup, would not make much of a difference in the taste (ignorance) would be more effective than claiming that you simply didn’t see the specification. That good intention (lowering sugar intake), coupled with an honest example of being an ignorant rule-breaker such as, “I googled whether others tried this recipe with only half a cup and found favorable results,” would do well in establishing innocence.
Another simple example would be sneaking into your house late in the night after a party at your friend’s place. Your significant other, or parent, may catch your not so quiet efforts to sneak in unnoticed before sunrise.
Establishing a sense of innocence would entail admitting to your deed of staying at the party for longer than you should have, establishing well meaning intention of not waking those who are sleeping, and admitting to your ignorance / inexperience surrounding the act of being quiet whilst sneaking in at night.
Establishing honest ignorance is key in establishing innocence. Remember, the innocent aren’t used to performing the act of breaking rules, rather than being ignorant of the rules themselves. The historically innocent tend to know the rules in play very well, as they’ve done a good job following them prior. Portray yourself as a novice in breaking rules, rather than one who doesn’t know about the rules in place. People tend to be welcoming to giving second chances, and should they perceive you to be an inexperienced rule breaker, your chances of going unpunished increase.