Doink! What to Do When You Mess Up

by Christa Hines on April 23, 2014

Sorry photoEver been faced with a pending conversation that creates a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach accompanied by a sense of doom? There’s nothing like the feeling of wanting to pull the blankets over your head and wish the problem away, especially when you know that it is unlikely you’ll come away from the conversation feeling any better.

I’ll be the first to admit it: anticipating a difficult conversation, keeps me up at night. I don’t like it when I know I’m going to disappoint or anger a friend, or I have to apologize for something I regret saying.  

For example, say you make a promise to someone and then realize, “Oh criminy. Why did I say that? I got caught up in the moment of being friendly and without thinking it through, I made an impulsive commitment that there’s no way I can uphold.” Or, “I can’t believe I made such an insensitive remark! I feel horrible about that.” 

Here’s how to handle it:

  • Before having a difficult conversation, write out a script to yourself to get your thoughts in order. 
  • Talk it over with someone you love and trust, who isn’t as emotionally invested and can provide an objective opinion about how you plan to address the situation.
  • Address the matter as soon as possible.
  • Apologize. Try not to make a list of excuses or lie. Instead, you might say “I realized after I promised to help you out that there were a number of personal factors I hadn’t considered. I’m afraid I was hasty and not being realistic. I’m so sorry.” Or, “I can’t believe I made such an incredibly stupid and insensitive comment. I hope you will forgive me.”
  • Seek ways to repair. If the person needed a volunteer or help of some kind, tell her that you will do what you can to help her find someone else.
  • Follow-through on helping out in ways that are reasonable and realistic for you. 
  • Give the situation time. Once you have said what you needed to say, move forward and realize it may take time to repair the relationship if the infraction was serious.

It is possible that you may have weakened or even sacrificed the friendship. Nevertheless, you faced your mistake head-on with integrity and honesty. Sometimes, that is the best we can do.

Illustration courtesy of gubgib.




{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sue LeBreton April 24, 2014 at 4:41 am

So many good ideas here for how to handle a deficit task. Especially liked the do it soon one as small issues seem bigger if we let them fester. And in the end we can only try & repair, how it turns out is out of our hands.


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