Mistakes, when acknowledged and accepted, are often a learning opportunity for growth. Use them.
One fact of life is that we all make mistakes, some of them negligible, like forgetting to Cc someone into an email. Others are in the super-size category, like Cc’ing in the wrong person. The point is, no matter how much we feel we’re in control from day to day, there are moments when we’re either not thinking or we’re thinking the inappropriate thing. In these moments we can mess up, and that’s alright, as long as we know how to clean up. Before I kick off with my tips, I want to be clear about something – mistakes aren’t things that can be planned. For example, if you sell your shares in a company and the next day they sky-rocket, that’s not a mistake. If you arrange to meet a woman with the express intention of cheating, it’s not a mistake. Both are regretful perhaps, or even a shame, but that’s all. When you do actually make a mistake, the most important thing is stopping it from becoming a failure. And that comes down to whether or not we learn from it.
Tip 1 – Own it! Forget about trying to blame someone or something, things move a lot quicker and you’ll gain a lot more respect if you get straight to the point. ”Yep I did it, now let’s sort it out.”
Tip 2 – If necessary, explain the reason behind messing up. This comes after tip 1, or you’ll sound like you’re just trying to cloak your action (or inaction) in excuses. “Yep, that was me, I did it and I’m sorry. Can I tell you how/why it happened?”
Tip 3 – Be clear about whether you’re actually sorry. You are? Okay, now be even clearer about what exactly you’re sorry for and what you’re not sorry for. Don’t be a jerk about it, but you set current and future expectations if people know your principles and what’s okay in your world.
Tip 4 – Stand your ground, but have a little jog around theirs. If you’ve screwed up but know you’d do the same thing again, still make sure you fully appreciate where the other person is coming from. Disagreeing with something you understand may be more helpful to you in the long run.
Tip 5 – Decide on how high the probability is that you’ll do it again. If it’s high, then there’s something that needs to change or be dealt with. Avoid the dull, painful merry-go-round of the same mistake in different outfits. If it’s a work mistake, get more training. If it’s to do with your relationship, talk harder and with more honesty.
Tip 6 – Know the weight of your own conscience and don’t lose a single ounce. It doesn’t matter who you’ve let down, whether you broke a promise to your doorman or to your wife. You made a promise and the weight of that responsibility doesn’t change from person to person. With the exception of kids, in that case, double it. If you disagree with this, then just don’t make the promise in the first place.
Tip 7 – Take control. A variation of Own it!, in which you don’t wait to be found out, approached, told how to make it better or let it fade into the misty land of regrets. If you can make it better or make amends, do it without being asked.
Tip 8 – Remember, you’ll screw up again. In some other large or small way, it happens. At any given moment you are the best you could be in that moment, once it’s over be graceful and let it go. Start to master your moments by learning from them, so they can only get better.kelp/Flickr