What do when you make a mistake? I know that I have had plenty of practice on this, and I think that everyone can say the same. Who in the world has not made a mistake at some point in their lives? Some of us handle making mistakes better than others do.
Why do my videos always show me in the most unflattering pose possible before you hit “play”???
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Minor Mistakes – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
I may have made a mistake this morning. I washed my hair and straightened it, and then discovered that it is supposed to rain all day! My hair may go, POOF, today. But that’s ok. Sometimes when you make a mistake the best thing you can do is say “oops!” and go on. This is best for mistakes that are very minor. When you make a mistake, ask yourself “How much does this really matter?” There is no point in sitting and worrying about something really minor. The only thing that’s going to do is increase your anxiety. Who needs more of that? I have enough things that I worry about!
If you make a mistake and it’s not consequential, don’t worry about it. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. My hair may be poufy by the end of the day. I may look like a giant fuzz ball, but that’s ok. No one is going to die from frizzy hair. No one is going to pass out from seeing someone with frizzy hair. It’s raining. It’s kind of expected. (at least for my hair.)
As yourself, “Does this matter?” and “Are there long-term consequences?” If it doesn’t, then don’t waste your time and energy worrying about it. It’s ok to say “oops!” and just roll with it. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Bigger Mistakes – 3 Common Ways we Handle Them
What if your mistake is bigger than poufy hair? What if you’ve done something and someone is upset about it? How do you handle it then? You could deny it, and say that it never happened. Blaming someone else when a mistake is made also seems to be a popular option! (though not one that I recommend. ) You could also own up to it and try to make it as right as possible. Which one of those is the better option?
1) Deny It
You could claim that it never happened. You could claim “That’s not true!” or “I never said/did that!” It may not be true, but for some reason, people do tend to choose this method of dealing with mistakes at times. Usually, this makes a mistake worse. The other person usually knows that you are lying, and they more than likely will not think better of you for choosing this option. Sometimes it’s very hard to admit when we are wrong when we make a mistake, we wind up creating a bigger problem than we started with.
For example, if you walk through a mud puddle, then you want to take your boots off when you go in the house. You don’t want to come in the house and get mud all over the carpet. Usually, Mom will say “What are you doing?!” And you say “Wasn’t me!” When you are the one still wearing the muddy boots.
That’s a kid example, but how many of us do that with real grown up mistakes? I remember one time when I was teaching, I made an off-handed comment about a student that I should not have said. She was sick that day and I said: “Oh, she’s not sick, she’s just faking.” Because she had missed a lot of days. The next day when she came back, she was furious with me, and rightly so! I had said something about her that was not true, and I had also said it publicly. When I was standing in front of the class checking roll, and I made this off-handed comment that I should not have said.
I was turning off the lights in my classroom for lunch the next day and she stormed into my classroom. She was so mad you could almost see steam coming out her ears. Everything about her body language said, “I’m upset! I’m SO mad at you!” She started off with “Mrs. Webb, you said yesterday that I wasn’t sick, but I was and I have the doctor’s excuse to prove it!”
I thought about this for a minute. She was mad, rightly so. I had made the mistake. I had said that. She was sick, I was wrong. I could have said, “I didn’t say that; I have no idea what you are talking about!” But she and I both would have known that it was a lie. She would not have felt any better, and I would have felt worse. I would have made a bigger mess had I denied it.
2) Blame Someone Else
The other thing that I could have done was blame somebody else. I could have said that “Oh, I heard that from someone else and I was just repeating it.” That would not have made things any better either. That would have also made a bigger mess. If you make a mistake and you blame other people then you are drawing more people into the dispute! Maybe it’s not big enough just between 2 people? Let’s get everybody involved! That’s usually not a good choice! But how often do we do that? We are so desperate to save face sometimes that we blame other people for our mistakes.
I could have told her that I heard that from someone else. It may or may not have been true. (Can’t remember that specific detail at this point) But even if it was, I was the one that had said it in front of the class. This dispute was between me and her. No need to bring anyone else into it.
3) Own up to it.
When we make a mistake, the best way to save face is to go with option #3: own up to it. When she came into my room and she was storming mad, she actually showed more maturity than I did because she came to me alone and stated the problem. She was upset about it, but she came to talk to me personally. This instance was one of my biggest lessons as a teacher. She may not realize that, but that day, she taught me. I was the student and she was the teacher.
She came to me storming mad, saying “You said that I wasn’t sick and I was! I have the doctor’s excuse to prove it! You shouldn’t have said that about me!” She didn’t call me any foul names (which would have gotten her sent to the principal’s office). Everything that she said was true! Even though she was mad, I didn’t get defensive. I looked her right in the eyes and said her name (statements have more of an impact if you precede them with someone’s name) and “You know what? You are absolutely right and I’m sorry.”
The demeanor change on her face was incredible. She went from “I can’t believe you said that! I’m so mad!” to “I am? I’m right?!” It was like I had just taken all the steam away from her anger. It was incredible how much those 2 little sentences calmed her down. She also looked quite surprised. I don’t think my reaction was what she had been expecting.
When she confronted me, I could have denied it, or I could have blamed someone else, but instead, I chose to own up to it. I told her “You are absolutely right. I had no business saying that because I had no idea whether you were sick or not. That was not professional of me. Furthermore, it was untrue. I apologize to you and since what I said publically, I will apologize to you first thing in class today when class starts in front of everyone. “ The change in her was incredible. She said “It’s ok. You don’t have to do that.” She forgave me right then and there on the spot. How mature was that?
The Next Step when you Make a Mistake – Try to Make it As Right as Possible
In the case of my student, I told her I told her “No, I really feel like I need to do this, ” because the next step when you make a mistake is to try to make it as right as possible. First, you own up to your mistake, then you tell the person “I’m sorry” but it should not stop there. “I’m sorry” is a good start, but when you make a mistake the next thing that should happen is that you do whatever you can to right the situation.
Because I had said what I did publically in front of the class when class started that day, I started off with “You know guys, none of us are perfect. We all say things sometimes that we should not have said and that was the case with me yesterday when I said that this student was not sick. She was sick, and I had no business saying that.” I called her by name, and told her again “I’m sorry that I said that about you, I hope that you will forgive me for that.” I knew that she already had, but I made a public apology. I explained that I was wrong, and I also modeled for this group of teenagers what should happen when a mistake has been made.
The Last Step – Learning from Your Mistake
After you right your mistake as much as you can there is something else that a lot of people forget this step and it’s probably one of the most important parts of the whole process of what to do when you make a mistake. That step is learning from it.
In one of the Batman movies, Bruce Wayne is a child and he is running through the yard and he falls in this hole. This hole is full of bats and they rush up around him and scare him. When they pull him up on a rope, his father wraps him in a hug and starts carrying him. Bruce Wayne says “I’m so sorry!” because he had gone running off into a field that he should not have been in. His Dad replies “Bruce, why do we make mistakes? We make mistakes to learn from them.” That is HUGE!
Mistakes Are Life Lessons
Mistakes are life lessons. We learn from them, or we should learn from them. If we don’t learn from them, it’s usually a life lesson that is bound to be repeated. Sometimes those lessons are not very fun. It takes different situations, but the main lesson will be repeated over and over until you learn from it.
Mistakes are lessons. Treat your mistakes as life lessons. What I learned from my mistake was to think before I spoke and to not say something about somebody that I did not know to be true. I bet that student remembers that instance to this day. I took that mistake and used it to build a better relationship with her. The whole class may remember it, I don’t know. But the important thing is not that they remember it, but that I remember it. It was my mistake and my lesson. That day I was the student and my student was the teacher.
When you make a mistake, there are 3 different ways to handle it:
- Deny it – which usually doesn’t work well.
- Blame someone else aka “Pass the Buck” – brings more people into the dispute
- Own up to it – best option
After you make a choice on how to handle it, hopefully, it will be to own up to it since that usually works the best when you make a mistake. Then you apologize to the person, tell them you are sorry. After that, you try to right that wrong. When you have done what you can to try to patch things up, you think about the life lesson and try to learn from your mistake. Everybody in the world makes mistakes. There is one last little tidbit. When you make a mistake, don’t dwell on it. Take your life lesson and go on. There’s no use dwelling on past mistakes.
I know that the example with my student was not an extreme one. There are many mistakes that have much more serious consequences that we can and do make in life. Treat them as a life lesson. Don’t wallow in your mistakes. Learn from them and go on. That is one of the secrets to living a happy and fulfilled life. Learn from your mistakes and then go on. Keep on questing for your personal contentment. Have a blessed day!
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