Wouldn’t it be great if you never made a mistake? Unless you live in a cave, you’ve experienced that terrible hot feeling that starts near your ears and migrates down to your stomach and all you can think is…oh no! Then, the second thought roars through your throbbing head – can I get away with it?
Of course you can’t because the truth will always prevail. Even though mistakes can be serious, you may find that admitting them with openness and humility builds more character than if you had never made the errors at all. After all, we are human and it’s natural to make mistakes but it’s how we take responsibility for our actions and handle the ensuing aftermath that matters more.
The first step to turning a mistake around, is to realize that unless the error concerns only you, you’re going to have to fess up. Everyone slips up on occasion, so don’t even consider trying to ignore or bury it. The repercussions will be worse if someone else catches your blunder, or the mistake causes havoc to others.
First, admit your error immediately. Do not wait longer than it takes to figure out what happened. Go directly to the person the mistake will impact the most – your boss, partner or friend. If you have a plan for correcting it, present it, and take the heat without blaming anyone else. At work, if the responsibility for the problem points to more people than just you, consider presenting the error to your boss as a team. Then offer to work late or come in on the weekend, if fixing the mistake will be time consuming or cause extra expenses to the company. If it concerns family or friends, offer up other ways to make it up.
However you handle your mistake it’s important that you don’t diminish yourself or anyone else. Apologize for the errors, but don’t make matters worse, by painting yourself or others as total idiots. If anyone reacts with anger, listen. When they are finished, ask how you can remedy the situation if you don’t already have a plan. The other person may be eager to help you save the day, or hopefully point you in the direction of a solution. You may have to take your story to more than one angry person, but if you handle yourself well, you may end up building a network of allies who respect you for your sense of responsibility.
How you handle your mistakes says more about you than how you handle your successes. It’s always a lesson in humility. Take it with gratitude. Humility is the key that unlocks all wisdom and ultimately, all freedom. If someone else can’t acknowledge your efforts to right your wrong, you need to accept that as one of the consequences of making the mistake. Forgive yourself, then move on.
Learning from our mistakes is key. When we make the same ones over and over again, there will come a time when no one will be willing to accept your apology. But hopefully, if you are lucky and you are responsible and you do make a really big error, you will learn more than you ever could have if it hadn’t happened at all.
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