The Blame-Free Way to Own Your Mistakes
If only life had a rewind button.
Mistakes happen. When you make them, it doesn’t feel good. In fact, it can be paralyzing when you realize what you’ve done.
Maybe you hit “reply all” when you meant to send your email to one close colleague. Maybe you mixed up your files and sent the wrong proposal to the wrong client. Maybe it was something you said — and immediately regretted.
Whatever the situation, it hits you in the gut when you realize you were wrong.
What’s your first instinct? Do you run and hide … deny it … start beating yourself up?
If you’re like most people, you go into a state of despair. You want to pin the blame on someone or something else. You look for an accomplice or a sympathetic friend to help you rationalize the blame.
At the end of the day, though, it was a mistake. Your mistake. How you handle a mistake often matters more than the mistake itself. Your actions reflect who you really are as an individual and a leader.
These Power Challenges can help you pick up the pieces after a mistake — so you can move forward with grace and confidence.
Power Challenge 1: Own Your Mistake
Feeling embarrassed or ashamed after making a big faux pax? That’s a totally reasonable reaction. Even though it’s a normal feeling, don’t let yourself crawl into a hole. The discomfort of your mistake won’t last forever. Especially if you handle the situation appropriately.
Your next steps matter. Make sure you AVOID these wrong moves:
- Don’t seek a scapegoat — Don’t try to divert attention from your mistake. Maybe someone else did play a role in what happened, but that doesn’t make it okay to avoid owning your part.
- Don’t hide — Don’t put your head down and ignore the mistake. Nor should you quickly attempt to cover it up, hoping and praying no one will find out about it.
- Don’t beat yourself up — Don’t throw fuel on the fire by berating yourself. Humans make mistakes. Throwing yourself a pity party will just make you feel worse about everything.
None of those approaches let you be your best self.
“It’s not how we make mistakes but how we correct them that defines us.” – Rachel Wolchin
Take ownership of your mistake. Start with your self-talk. Don’t make excuses. Acknowledge to yourself it wasn’t your proudest moment, but don’t let the moment define you. Admit you made the mistake. Then quickly shift from focusing on the problem to finding a solution.
Power Challenge 2: Offer a True Apology
After you’ve accepted responsibility for the mistake in your own mind, it’s time to own up to others. Compose yourself. Then offer a sincere apology — and the sooner, the better!
Think about the people who were impacted and how the mistake may have affected them. Depending on the situation, you might want to tell your supervisor first.
Your apology should include at least two parts:
- Acknowledge the mistake — and your role in it. Spell it out. Start your apology by saying, “I made a mistake.” Don’t dance around the mistake by saying, “Something happened,” or “A mistake was made.” That’s not ownership!
- Acknowledge the negative impact(s) of the mistake. Did you hurt someone or create a problem in your team or organization? Be brave. Use the right words to show that you understand the implications of what you did. In doing so, you’re owning the fact that you’ve created difficulties for someone else. This is a huge part of being your best self.
Act quickly. Don’t let your supervisor or other key people hear through the grapevine. Make sure they hear it first from YOU.
Finally, state how you’re planning to resolve the situation. If it can be rectified, what actions will you take? If it can’t be fixed, how will you make sure it doesn’t happen again? While it’s important to act quickly, take a moment to prepare your thoughts. Stammering or sending a poorly written email will dilute the impact of your apology.
Making a true apology will likely be uncomfortable. But it’s short-term pain for long-term gain. Show up as you at your best. Handling the situation with grace and confidence will help you gain the respect — and likely more trust — from others.
Power Challenge 3: Stop Talking About It
So, you messed up … You owned it … You offered a true apology. Now what? Follow through on your promises. Fix what you can or take actions to prevent making the same mistake in the future.
And then, MOVE ON.
Stop begging for forgiveness. Stop talking about how “stupid” you were. And stop pushing people to find out if they’re “okay” with you. These behaviors aren’t productive. Let’s face it, you could become downright annoying, and people will start ignoring you. Worse, they’ll lose respect for and devalue you.
Don’t leave the key to your self-acceptance in someone else’s hands.
It’s not other people’s job to make you feel better about what happened. They don’t have to validate you. You have to do that for yourself.
Moving on requires a shift in your attitude. Instead of focusing on the past (what happened), shift your vision to the future (your actions from this moment forward).
Bouncing Back from Mistakes
Sometimes it’s harder to forgive ourselves than it is to forgive others. Show yourself some grace and compassion. Remember everyone makes mistakes from time to time.
Then move forward with a positive attitude. Give yourself credit for doing the right things. By owning up to your mistakes and handling them the right way, you’re being a positive role model for others! You’re demonstrating mature self-leadership. Because you’ve made the best of a difficult situation.
That’s all that can be done. Let it go, learn from your mistake, and move on. The best version of you has better things to do than look backward!
Looking for a motivational speaker for your next event? Carla energizes and inspires attendees to be the best version of themselves that they can be. Contact her today.