We all make mistakes. Lots of them. Rarely a day goes by without me making at least one, whether it be forgetting to run an errand, coming home late without warning my wife, being late to a meeting, making a bad trade, or losing patience with one of my kids. It’s OK to make mistakes because it’s part of makes us human. I would argue that our demanding lifestyle makes us prone to make much more than our parents.
I believe there are two types of mistakes: the ones that negatively impact us, and those that affect others. It’s unpleasant to be on the receiving end of a mistake, whether it was yours or someone else’s.
People have different ways to deal with mistakes they make that affect others. Some will try (and often succeed) to convince themselves that even though it wasn’t planned, the outcome of their action is better for everyone, including the people affected by it. Others will try to hide it, acting as if nothing happened, hoping no one will notice or that time will heal all wounds. Others will plainly lie, scheming, hoping they’ll never get caught. Others will look for excuses, blaming others, the weather, the market, the cell phone battery, traffic, etc.
We’ve all come across these people, and we can also probably remember times in our respective lives where we used some of these tactics. I know I have. You don’t have to be a scholar to see how wrong these approaches are.
There are better ways to deal with mistakes. This is how I try to deal with mine:
1- Stop everything, concentrate, and put yourself in the shoes of the other. Assume the worst. How do you feel? If it doesn’t feel right, you’ve probably made a mistake.
2- Take full responsibility for your actions. Don’t be afraid to say you screwed up. Assuming responsibility is an important step towards building mutual respect and trust. Only real men (or women) take full responsibilities for their actions.
3- Apologize with sincerity. Check your ego at the door and say you’re sorry. An apology is something you give expecting nothing in return. It shows you care. You can’t fake it.
4- If the apology is accepted, propose solutions to fix the situation and offer to make it up to them.
One can argue that not all mistakes are black or white. To that I say when in doubt, always assume the worst and apologize. What bad can come of it?
The key to all of this is to treat people the way we want to be treated.
I apologize everyday. To my wife, my kids, business partners, friends, acquaintances and people I don’t even know. I don’t think it makes me less of a man.
Imagine a world in which everyone takes responsibility for their actions, apologizes for their mistakes, and looks for solutions to fix them…