No matter what your belief system and without getting too philosophical, I think we can all agree that nobody is perfect. Where we differ is what to do when we make a mistake, grown ups and kids included. It reminds me of that mom-article that recently went viral when she wrote that her child does not have to share his toys at the park. There were many differing opinions and some people were quite incensed at her nerve. I love her explanation (and I am paraphrasing here) that if an adult comes into the park (or the office) with a delicious lunch, is he or she required to share it with the co-workers who want it or think it smells good? Of course not, so why should our kids have to share a toy they bring to the park just because half a dozen strangers demand it? No single way of parenting is perfect or right for everyone. In the same vein, no single way or handling a mistake is perfect or right.
Here is a “Golden Rule” method for handling mistakes (and you WILL make them):
Admit it – First things first, just fess up. The first step to correcting a mistake is to admit that it happened. No need to make excuses or explain it away. Sometimes, we are just wrong. It’s okay, though, because recognizing the problem begins the path to renewal. What makes people mad or distrustful is when we try to hide a mistake and lie our way out of it. One lie leads to another and they grow, Grow, GROW!
Fix it – If your mistake caused some harm or foul, it is up to you to fix it, if at all possible. You cannot fix some problems, but do what you can. Like my mom always says, if you broke it, fix it. If you cannot fix it yourself, you are responsible to get help and find someone who can fix it, and to pay for it.
Make it right – If you spilled it, clean it up. Repair the situation back to before you messed it up, if you can. This is where, “I am sorry,” become important words. This is where you stop making excuses or saying, “I’m sorry but…” and you start saying, “You were right.”
Learn from it – We all want to be right. When we’re not, it hurts. We are embarrassed or mad. What we need to do is learn from it. Look at the why of what we said or did. Decide not to handle conflict in the same way. We cannot always get our own way, even if it’s not fair. Life is not fair and there is no place where it says it is supposed to be so. Learn a new way to approach the same situation, since it could happen again.
Don’t repeat it – When a little kid learns their lesson, that a stove is hot, for example, he or she will not touch the hot stove again. It’s that simple. It might take twice, but usually not more. Adults are not always so bright when it comes to repeating mistakes. This is where we have to revisit the Learn-from-it-step. Figure out why you make a mistake, what the situation looks like right before you mess up, and then figure out other things to do.
Mistakes happen. In life, in relationships, at work, with friends, family and strangers. We grow as we learn. Imagine if we never learned from our mistakes? Albert Einstein defined insanity as repeating an action expecting different results (or did he?). I could quote all kinds of cliches, but the message remains the same. Face adversity with a positive, humble attitude and you’re likely to overcome life’s errors and succeed as a stronger, more impactful human.