Sometimes I make a mistake. True Story.
Hello. My name is Renee. I am not perfect. There. I said it. Your turn!
We all know that we are not perfect; however, there are many of us who expect that we should be. I’ve heard it said that folks like us are “perfectionists” or “workaholics,” and we are called those things with condescension or disdain. It is apparently not a good thing to want to do an excellent job or to live up to our responsibilities… but why?
I dropped the ball this morning. I will spare you all of the details, but I have been the point person on a project at work, and I scheduled some work today in the same room a meeting was scheduled to occur. I failed to check the master schedule. I even needed to order large equipment for this work to commence. When the scheduling snaffoo was discovered, I wasn’t even in the building – I needed to contact many people by phone to figure out the problem and straighten out the mess. It all worked out, but I feel like my neglecting to check the schedule caused inconvenience and issues for others. I hate that!
I take care of things! I am the person people contact when something absolutely needs to be done properly because they know that they can count on me! I am not a slacker – I’m really not! How could I let this horrible thing happen?!
It really wasn’t that horrible, and it all worked out; so, why does it still bug me? Why do I feel like I need to apologize to everyone repeatedly? I disappointed myself, and I assume that everyone else will be disappointed in me as well.
Do I ever do anything right? You may think that I am someone who never errs and has no idea what it’s like to be scolded for an error – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There have been many time in my life in which my immediate supervisor was rarely satisfied with my performance. I have always been one of the hardest-working people I know, so every time I have been called in, so to speak, for making a huge mistake, I am always surprised, and mortified.
Why does this happen to me? I often over-extend myself…and I never do anything half-way. If I’m in, I’m in 125% with my whole heart. Invariably with so many people and projects expecting me to take care of a million little things, something is bound to be forgotten…but the 999,999 things I got right never make up for the 1 I screwed up or merely forgot…at least in my mind.
Someone needs to take care of it… may as well be me. I try not to expect more of others than I expect from myself, so if something needs to be done, I usually just take care of it…even if that means that I stay longer, work harder, or pay for things out of my own pocket. People around me just get used to knowing that I will most likely arrive before they do, leave after, take care of set up and clean up, and get all supplies needed for the event or task.
Why should I expect someone else to do something I’m not willing to do? I shouldn’t… so I go ahead and do it myself.
I don’t want to be that guy. I cannot tell you how many times someone tells me that he/she will take care of something, and I trust that the task will be completed… then I feel like an idiot when that person doesn’t live up to his/her word. I end up taking care of it anyway. Why did he/she even offer if there was never any attempt to complete the task? “If you want something done, do it yourself.” Have you ever heard that before? I have. Repeatedly. In my head! I don’t want to be the person who does that to someone else!
How should I respond? I’ve established that I have the ability to make mistakes, but is this a bad thing? We learn so much from our mistakes! Over the years I have been trying to learn how to respond, and I’ll share what I have learned!
- Admit it. Immediately. If everyone is wondering who jammed the copier or spilled the drink or forgot the Power Point presentation, admit it! Don’t stand there, embarrassed, as everyone wonders who did it. Athletes who play team sports have figured this one out: When they make a mistake on the court or field, they yell, “My bad!” then everyone is good with it, and no one gets upset. In traffic…someone cuts you off, and you begin your road rage tirade, what stops it? The “Oops, I’m sorry” wave from the other driver. You wave back and all is well. Don’t let any time go by – admit it immediately.
- Don’t be defensive. When you admit that you did something wrong, do not immediately try to blame someone else or circumstances. Just say, “I blew it. I was wrong. How would you like me to repair this situation?” I guarantee the other person will not know what to do with you. I honestly learned this from my students… the ones who get in trouble most often. They have learned that it’s easier just to say, “Yep, I did that. Now what?” The ones with this attitude make dispersing consequences much easier – we discuss what needs to be done to repair the situation, and then we move on.
- Don’t internalize or personalize the error. You have not become the worst human on the planet because you did something wrong! Stop beating yourself up! Also, don’t get angry at the person you wronged either. Do your best to keep emotions out of the situation – they only complicate things. I know, easier said than done.
- Make restitution or a goodwill gesture if needed. If you have really inconvenienced someone, a little gift card goes a long way to making up for your error. If the mistake is more personal, if you hurt someone emotionally, a small token of some kind could begin repairing the relationship. Why do you think husbands show up with flowers after a bonehead move..again!? They have learned that a bouquet of flowers could soften the heart of the one he hurt so that his apology is accepted more readily.
Well, this has been therapeutic. I sent several texts owning up to my not checking the schedule, apologizing for inconveniencing everyone, and promising to do a better job in this area. My partner went in to check on the job and took a little gift of apology which he said they really liked. And I am letting myself off the hook – sort of – I’m working on it.
Do I always follow my own advice? No. But I try. Making mistakes is a part of life. If we are too afraid of making mistakes, we will never try anything new. So, just do it… and if you drop the ball… just own it!