Accepting and owning your mistakes takes guts.
But with 2018 fast approaching, it’s time to make peace with your stuff-ups and leave them in 2017.
The key is becoming aware and identifying where you’ve made a faux pas early.
Always try to acknowledge your mistake within the first 24 hours from the time you become aware of it. This creates a level of vulnerability and authenticity that is very difficult to replicate if you put it off until later.
So, how do you get more self-aware of when you’ve buggered up?
First, listen to what’s happening in your body.
When you become aware, you’ll have some kind of physiological reaction. It’s something you get better and better attuned to over time. Shortness of breath; racing or looping thoughts; trouble sleeping; exasperated voice; tension in your neck; elevated heart rate; nervousness and anxiousness; muscle contractions; twitching movements; shaking hands.
They may be subtle or quite pronounced. However, these are physiological reactions to psychological suffering. If this is about doing wrong by someone or a group of people, address it. As soon as you become aware you’ve stuffed up, here’s what to do next:
1. OWN IT
Acknowledge your mistake and apologise. It doesn’t matter whether you were right or wrong. It matters how the other person or group feels. This is about having the empathy and self-awareness to realise it’s their experience not yours.
The Stoics would say that other people’s reactions are outside of your control. All that’s within your control is how you respond to life’s externals. Therefore, If someone else is upset because of your actions, don’t lose yourself emotionally in the situation.
Instead, have empathy and acknowledge how they feel with sincerity. Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand why they are upset. We all just want to feel understood in relationships and life.
2. BE GRATEFUL
When you’re grateful you can’t be fearful. Fear is probably the reason for why you faltered in the first place. Express your appreciation and gratitude to the person or group. Look for and find what you can be grateful for not just in them, but in the situation and what it’s teaching you.
3. EXPLAIN YOURSELF
Explain the error in your actions or words and acknowledge how you perceive this to impact them. Explain the ethos (ethics), pathos (emotion) or logos (logic) behind why you said what you said or did what you did and how your execution didn’t match your intent. Or if your intent was — in hindsight — flawed, explain that. Park your ego at the door and be radically honest.
4. EXPLAIN HOW YOU’RE GOING TO FIX IT
State what you’re going to do to fix it. The ticket to the game is putting them back into the same position they were in before the mistake was made. See how you can surprise and delight.
5. FOLLOW THROUGH
Do what you said you were going to do. There are three types of emotional responses we have in relation to our expectations. If you do what you say you’re going to do, it creates a neutral emotional response in the recipient. Neither good nor bad.
If we’re made to expect the world and you deliver the world, we’ll feel indifferent. If you deliver less than what we expect, it’s a negative emotional experience. Deliver more, and it’s positive, no matter how low the expectations were in the first place.
6. GET COMPLETE
Getting complete means closing the loop. Is there anything more that needs to be said or done? Ask them. Explicitly check in and get their closure that they’re at peace and the situation is resolved in their mind.
Now you can all move on.
This might all happen in the space of a 2-minute conversation or a 2-month repair job depending on the circumstance. Either way, follow these principles and you’re likely to come out the other side with better outcomes for you and those that matter to you.