Admitting you made a mistake can be a challenge if you want to avoid “losing face”. However, in the eyes of other people, a person who can admit to mistakes and move on from them is more likely to garner respect than someone who blusters and pretends they weren’t responsible. Ultimately, continued refusal to face up to being wrong or causing a problem can take a toll on your reputation, relationships, and your work or professional life.
Consider your feelings when you make a mistake.
If you’re a perfectionist or someone with an overactive internal critic, making mistakes can absolutely terrify you and cause you to believe that you have to cover them up or foist the blame elsewhere. Yet, these actions cause their own problems and end up making the mistake worse or even have greater ramifications than had you faced the mistake openly. If any of the following responses apply to you, then you definitely need to practice the suggestions in the remainder of the article:
When you make a mistake, your internal critic goes into overdrive, faulting everything you do and making the whole mistake seem much worse than it actually is. You think purely in negatives about the mistake.
Following a mistake, you tend to put yourself down, calling yourself stupid, clueless, dumb and hopeless. You may even convince yourself that “I’ll never get this right”, thereby barring any possibility of learning.
Mistakes in any area cause you to cease to trust your own ideas or thoughts in that area and to second-guess the things you do and decisions or choices you make.
You tell yourself that the mistake “must never happen again”, treating the past as a warning to the future that stifles growth and innovation, causing you to stop taking reasonable risks to further your career, studies, life plans, etc. Soon, you’re an irritable hermit who repeats only the actions that you know won’t result in “mistakes”.
Your idea of “mistake” is warped. You treat even the smallest slip-up, like forgetting to make your lover a cup of tea one morning or not spell checking a document once in a while, as major catastrophes in letting down others.
Re-envision your idea of what it means to make mistakes.
First up, mistakes are going to happen and they’re going to keep happening even after you’ve “learned your lesson”. Life is very generous with mistakes, just as it’s very generous with learning opportunities, love and chance of fulfillment if you choose to take them. Second, mistakes teach us what we’re capable of by showing us what doesn’t work. Remember Edison’s 10,000 attempts at getting a light bulb to work when you feel like calling your efforts a mistake. Third, quite a large number of mistakes have resulted in creations and inventions of a scientific, business, architectural, creative, or other nature. Indeed, mistakes can even reveal breakthroughs in self-understanding. Mistakes have their place in life.
Own your mistakes.
One of the best and most effective responses to making a mistake is to take responsibility for having made it, especially where it upsets, harms or disturbs other people. And owning your mistakes is also good for mistakes that simply bother your own sense of who you are striving to be, so as to avoid the blame game. Don’t try to run away from the mistake or it will continue to chase you.
. This isn’t as hard as it seems unless pride is holding you back. See the second part of this article below for how to admit a mistake to a particular person.
Instead of calling yourself a whole bunch of negative names, realize that while you could have done better/differently/more considerately than you did, perhaps mitigating factors such as tiredness, hunger, a sense of urgency, a desire to please, etc. overtook your more balanced self. Concentrate on how to deal with the underlying reason rather than on belittling your whole self.
For example, you could tell yourself something like: “In future, I could ensure I’ve eaten/slept/got hold of all the facts/called a friend, etc. before making a difficult decision/reaching a conclusion/creating the work, etc.”
Accept your behavior but don’t put yourself down.
Looking back is for people mired in negative thinking about the past. You can’t change the past but you can live more consciously in the present. Learn from the mistake but cease to dwell on it. Next time there’s a mistake, this learning will allow your perception to see things very differently.
Learn to move on.
Many people unable to admit to mistakes suffer from a strive for “perfection”. Striving for perfection will see you mired in mistakes all your life, bogged down by error after glaring error and feeling demoralized all the time. Instead, focus on striving for excellence while allowing yourself to be the imperfect being you are.
You don’t have to be the best at everything. You don’t have to be the brightest, bubbliest, prettiest, best-dressed person in the room. If you think you do need to be the best, you will be self-absorbed about your flaws and almost everything you do and every way you are will be a mistake in your own eyes.
You are perfect the way you are, a competent being who continues to be open to learning and continuous growth.
Strive for excellence.
If you can’t tell them, at least talk to a close friend.
Make an effort to talk to the person affected by your mistake.
For example, say: “I’m sorry I started that rumor. It was a really hurtful and childish thing to do.”
Start with an admission you were wrong.
for the consequences. For example, say: “I’m sorry that I’ve ignored your opinion. I see now that I really hurt your feelings.”
Only apologize if you are sincerely sorry. An insincere apology will hurt the other person more.
For example, say: “If I had known that Jane Doe had the problem under control, I wouldn’t have gotten involved and created that mess.”
If it’s a minor mistake, or not very serious, make a joke about the incident. It shows that you’re comfortable with yourself and can get over minor difficulties. For example, say: “Next time we have an important client, I’ll have to have cheat cards like a newscaster. Then I’ll remember to get the names right!”
Look around and watch people who turn their gaffes into humorous stories or successful anecdotes. These people tend to be relaxed, self-assured and very likeable because they can see the funny or less serious side of their mistakes.
for the consequences.
For example, say: “That was really foolish of me. Next time I see a situation like that, I’ll ask for details instead of jumping to conclusions.”
Explain yourself if you need to.
Depending on the situation, the other person may take time to get back to you. And when they do, don’t try to rearrange their understanding of the situation. Listen to how they perceived your actions, words or involvement.
Explain why it won’t happen again.
Be bold and move on. Either the person will accept your admission or they won’t but you need to get on with life. Dwelling on what happened or trying to force an outcome never makes things better. Cease the fretting and trying too hard and simply let things be.
Give the other person space to respond.
Perhaps there isn’t someone right now to whom you need to admit a mistake but you’d still like to know if you’ve taken on board the suggestions contained in this article. You can try this out by testing your response to a deliberately made mistake. The next steps detail some mistakes you can “try” and then test your response:
Read the newspaper upside down. When someone notices, what will you say to them?
Hug someone you don’t know. When they act surprised, what will you say?
Drop something in the kitchen, like a condiments jar. What will you say to the person who notices your mistake?
Drive home from work without a map, following a brand new route. When you feel lost, how will you react? Will you ask for help or keep driving even more lost? Will you call home to admit what you’re doing?
Let it go.
In each case, you’re pushing yourself outside of your usual habit or comfort zone. And you’re opening yourself up to someone else noticing and possibly judging you. Try reacting in these ways:
Own up to the mistake. “Why yes! So I am reading this newspaper upside down. To be honest, I’m actually snoozing behind it but you’ve caught me out!”
Make amends if needed. “I’m sorry I dropped your favorite jar of pickles. I was testing out a theory. I’ll buy a new one in the morning.”
Most of all, focus on your self-awareness of how it feels to make a mistake consciously. You’re not perfect but you are clued in to your limitations and the importance of always making a positive connection with others.
Test your response.
Deal with some change.