How to Fix Mistakes

We all make mistakes — in our private life and in our professional life. Everyone makes them, no one escapes mistake making, but few people know how to fix mistakes and recover well fast.

Here’s the secret. Let go of denial, blame, excuses, and castigating yourself to earn their pity. Instead, acknowledge mistakes quickly so you can move to resolution.

Acknowledging that you made a mistake is the first step of the four-step process for cleaning up broken agreements.

It’s simple enough — once you have decided to acknowledge to yourself that you blew it. You see, admitting it to ourselves is the hard part.

Without acknowledging it to the other party you won’t be able to move the relationship forward to a resolution. For this reason, acknowledgement is actually more important than an apology.

Fix Mistakes Fast

Think about how upsetting it is when other people don’t acknowledge their errors. If it happens too many times or if it goes on for too long, it can feel like they are refusing to acknowledge your existence.

How frequently do you cause these kinds of problems yourself? You don’t want to make someone else feel like that.

How long do you go on denying before you recognize your mistake? This is the kind of behavior that can cause you and your organization to lose productivity.

When we refuse to acknowledge mistakes, we get to stay stuck — no learning, no moving forward, no gain, only loss.

How you acknowledge a mistake makes a big difference. Be clear with the language you use, and make sure the other party knows you are sincere.

Here are a few phrases you can try:

  • I let you down. You didn’t deserve that from me.
  • I blew it. I apologize.
  • I made a mistake.
  • I said I would do something and I didn’t.
  • I failed to keep an agreement.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Recognize where you have made a mistake in a relationship. Acknowledge it — now. And then pay attention to what happens.

Tip for the whole team: Mistakes are bound to happen; they are inherent to the learning process. Talk with your teammates about how to admit and accept mistakes, and learn from them. Make agreements about how admitting and accepting mistakes can be accomplished within the group.


Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Collaboration, Teamwork on 07/28/2014 02:16 pm
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