Admit your mistakes

‘No matter how far you have gone down the wrong path, turn back.’
Turkish proverb.

Uncle: Another way we can be vulnerable is to admit our mistakes.

Nephew: That’s a no brainer.

Uncle: But do you know why it’s a good idea to admit our mistakes?

Nephew: It makes us vulnerable?

Uncle: Go on.

Nephew: It’s the right thing to do? . . .  It shows maturity? . . . We have to take responsibility?

Uncle: What does that mean?

Nephew: Well, it’s a part of growing up.

Uncle: Why?

Nephew: You are a real pain sometimes. . . . Maybe we shouldn’t admit our mistakes, now that I think about it. If I admit to making a mistake I might get sued, or sacked, or miss out on a promotion. People in powerful positions don’t admit their mistakes; that’s why they are in powerful positions.

Uncle: I’m not talking about how to build a career, I’m talking about how to build a person.

Nephew: How is admiting our mistakes building ourselves a person?

Uncle: Someone who will not admit to having made a mistake will not fully admit it to themselves either. Therefore, they are more likely to keep making that mistake. Result: they lose the trust of others, and can’t fully trust themselves.

Nephew: Good on them.

Uncle: However, when we admit our mistake we are fully ‘owning’ it, and that’s when we grow. Plus, people begin to respect us because we are displaying integrity.

Nephew: That sounds good in principle, but when we admit our mistakes we feel flawed, and undermine our self-confidence.

Uncle: On the contrary, we come to realise that making mistakes is normal and inevitable, and we come to realise we can cope with the consequences. So, we become less anxious, and develop the courage to try scary things.

Nephew: Like what? Lawn bowls?

Uncle: Like expressing our opinions and taking a stand. Or, expressing our dismay with someone.

Nephew: We are prepared to look bad?

Uncle: Yes. And, by accepting our own fallibility we come to realise we are not diminished by it. So, we become less harsh with ourselves, and replace self-blame with self-acceptance.

Nephew: Where do you get this stuff?

Uncle: Further, the more often we admit to being wrong, the more flexible and open-minded we become. We come to trust our own judgments, because we know our opinion is not based on protecting our ego, but on seeking the truth.

Nephew: Do you spend your nights reading philosophy books? Look, you might be right, but I’m not sure all that is worth losing a job over.

Uncle: Then let’s say you’re working for someone and you make a big mistake.

Nephew: Yes. For a joke I push the boss into a vat of cyanide.

Uncle: When you (1) admit to a mistake you have the opportunity to (2) apologise for it, (3) explain how you will be rectifying the mistake, and (4) explain what you will be doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again. That must be a good thing! All four steps indicate you are taking responsibility. If your boss has any brains, he or she will recognise that and be grateful for it.

Nephew: Once they’ve dragged themselves out of the vat, I guess so.

‘When you make a mistake, give the people you work with – including those you supervise – a shot at divinity. Admit your error. Own up. Then propose a course to correct the mistake. Never use your authority to mask mistakes. Admit them. Explain them. Apologize for them. Above all else, use them. Allow people to see how you accept responsibility and how you can learn from error. However, do not over-analyse mistakes or indulge in endless rounds of woulda, shoulda, coulda. Once you admit an error, look to the future. What have you learned? How will you keep this from happening again?’
From the book, ‘Patton on Leadership’, by Alan Axelrod.

Uncle: I’m suggesting that from now on, when you are wrong – and only when you are wrong – admit it clearly and thoroughly. It will be difficult. It will feel like you are committing psychic suicide, but do it. Out loud. Actually say the words, ‘I was wrong. I made a mistake.’ Then look at ways to recrify your mistake, and for ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Nephew: Then congratulate myself for doing all that?

Uncle:  Yes! Certainly don’t be harsh with yourself. Insulting yourself won’t stop you from making mistakes in future, and it might dent your confidence. If you must be critical, criticise your mistake, not yourself.

Nephew: And if I do insult myself I have to retract it. Yeah, I know. By the way, I already admit to my mistakes. I’ve been doing it for years.

Uncle: Good.

Nephew. I’ll admit to one right now: I shouldn’t have come here today and listened to your twaddle.

Uncle: And I guess I shouldn’t have wasted my breath talking to you.

Nephew: We both made mistakes?

Uncle: Apparently.

Nephew: That’s settled. What’s for lunch?

‘Be ready to say the three most difficult phrases in the world: “I was wrong”, “I made a mistake”, and “I’ve changed my mind”.’
Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University.

‘At the Australian institute of Sport, where Professor Klein teaches these concepts to Olympic coaches, they are recognising that a fixed mindset is not the best mindset to work with.
  “They say they would much rather pick a kid whose current ability is a little lower, like a sprinter who’s a little bit slower…but who responds to coaching and seems enthusiastic about learning, than a kid who seems brittle in the face of coaching.”‘
From the online article, ‘A fixed Mindset Could be Holding You Back‘, by Anna Kelsey-Sugg and Ann Arnold, for the ABC Radio National Program, ‘Best Practice’ 26 June, 2018.

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