Why making mistakes can be good news

Why making mistakes can be good news.

I was recently sitting on a train, it was packed and consequently somewhat intimate, and you could hear the conversations nearby  (you sometimes can’t help but listen when in such close proximity) Opposite me was a young girl of around 18. She was sitting with a slightly older woman the younger girl was very upset and apologising to the older one. It turns out that during the day the girl had made a mistake that had caused considerable problems. The older woman listened with clearly growing impatience as the girl apologised again and again until eventually she interrupted by saying:

“Right stop crying, take a step back and let’s look at this”

The more experienced woman went on to explain that she really needed to look at the situation a different way. Getting upset about it was fine but on its own achieved nothing. The effect of the mistake she made had been a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things and yes, it needed fixing, but most importantly she should focus on why the mistake happened.

The younger girl responded to by explaining what she thought had happened. She had been given a rush job by the older woman and didn’t want to say that she then probably wouldn’t be able to complete her other task in time.

“OK” The more experienced woman replied “Then the bottom line is, I made the mistake of taking you away from an important task, the mistake you actually made was not telling me I was doing it. Learn from that”

You could see the penny drop for the inexperienced girl as she realised that learning and growing from a mistake is more important than the mistake itself. In this case, she simply needed to be honest with her colleague and speak up a little. The more experienced worker handled her really well, I am a Mum to an 18 year old and it’s exactly as I would have handled it

Mistakes happen – it is how we deal with them that matters. I learned this the hard way.

Many years ago I wanted to change careers, so I typed up a new CV, which included a line with the reasons why I wanted to get out of my current industry. I succeeded and moved on, and frankly it was a mistake. I missed my original career badly so a year later I applied for a job and sent off my CV.

The same CV that carefully explained why I wanted to get out of the industry I was applying to return to, oops!!

Despite this I got an interview and actually got the job! The mistake on my CV was raised during the interview and I was so embarrassed but I responded honestly, explaining that at the time I thought it was the right thing to do, but I had been wrong.

It was my honesty that won through. The fact that I could hold up my hands, acknowledge and take responsibility for my mistake went a long way (and a little humour)

Mistakes are not always bad. We need to deal with them, resolve them and move on. Most importantly in both my stories the mistake was used as a learning point and an honest and open approach turned an error into a positive.


Image for mistake blog 28 Aug 2015


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