It’s not easy to admit when you said or did something that didn’t work out the way you hoped. What do you do with your feelings of remorse or disappointment? How do you feel when you make a mistake or when others make mistakes? Your beliefs about mistakes can tell a lot about what you believe about yourself, your relationships, and your willingness to learn.

As a parent, when I admit to my kids I’ve made a mistake, it is the FASTEST way to restore connection. We can transform feelings of anger, sadness, and frustration into eagerness, calm and curiosity within a matter of seconds or minutes. When I feel guilty or embarrassed to admit my mistakes, I see how my fear contributes to more conflict and regret. What do you notice?

I’ve found that having a positive attitude toward slip-ups makes correcting them easier and quicker than if you deny it ever happened. If you never acknowledge your blunders, you’ll never be able to correct them.

“The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period on one’s life.” Dalai Lama

Who Makes Mistakes?

Let’s consider people you know and respect. Think of a time when they made a mistake. If you can’t think of anything, ask someone you trust about it. Did they “fess up” to their mistakes or did they try to hide them out of embarrassment? What happened?

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple Computers

What does a baby do when she’s learning to walk? She makes mistakes, doesn’t she? She falls down many, many times. Then she falls down some more until she learns how to walk. She does some of the same mistakes over and over again. Life is the same as it always has been since we were babies. Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Make lots of mistakes. Enjoy learning!

We all make mistakes.

When you make a mistake, it’s easy to ignore the problem or blame someone else for it. Unfortunately, if someone slips-up and tries to hide it, that’s when people begin to distrust them, not because they made the mistake in the first place! The problem with blame and shame is that they erode the trust others have in you a little more each time.

Beware the “Sorry” that Comes from Guilt

Chances are, when you made your mistake, you were not trying to make a mistake. You were trying to meet your needs in some way. Accidents, misunderstandings, and miscalculations happen. In either case, you’ll do as much harm to your relationship if you guilt yourself as you would for blaming the other person for the damage.

So, how do you say sorry without guilt? Research shows us that learning is best in a safe, calm, and familiar environment. Guilt and blame are neither calm nor safe. The optimal state for learning and growth is created when you combine the natural creative energy of the needs you were trying to meet, with your focus and accountability. If the conflict is too painful for you to connect with the energy of your needs or the needs of others, consider the help of a life coach, counselor, or empathetic friend to help you listen, and connect with your needs when you can’t.

What Helps When You Make Mistakes?

Admitting you’ve made a mistake is part of building a trusting relationship with yourself and others. By accepting that you did something that did not achieve the goals you were trying to meet, you’re reassuring yourself and others that you can take responsibility for your actions and the consequences that follow. Your powerful feelings of remorse and frustration are your body’s signals that you want to meet your needs in better ways.

“We do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better, we do better.” Maya Angelou

Give yourself an opportunity to make amends!

Here are 7 simple steps you can take as soon as you realize you’ve made a mistake:

1. Accept what happened. Take responsibility for it. Taking ownership of the situation rather than trying to cover it up will restore trust in yourself and others. Every consequence is feedback about what works and what doesn’t.

2. Discuss it. Invite other people involved to talk about what happened, what you had in mind, why your strategy didn’t work, and offer a suggestion of how you might correct it.

3. Listen to the feelings and needs of others. How do they feel about what happened? What do they need? What would they like to do about it? Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if the situation was reversed?

4. Sincerely acknowledge other’s feelings and needs. Say sorry if that helps. What does the other person need from you to restore trust?

5. Do what you can to restore goodwill together. Work with the other person to decide on the best way for you to make amends.

6. What did you learn? Tell yourself and the other person how you’ll act differently. Focus on the positive, creative energy of the needs you were trying to meet. Focus on what you want to do now rather than what you want to avoid.

7. Don’t dwell on the mistake. Keep focused on what you learned and how you’ll do things differently. If goodwill has been restored, move on and stay present and compassionate with yourself. Remember, that your relationship may need time and reassurance to build the trust that you once had.

It’s never easy admitting mistakes. Our painful feelings of remorse and sadness are calling us back to our integrity. Our heart calls us to restore the connection and trust with others when something we’ve done has contributed to harm. Sometimes all you want to do is run away rather than admit mistakes. However, taking responsibility for ourselves is part of learning, growing, and experiencing emotional freedom that encourages people to trust and respect you.

“A man should never be ashamed to own that he is wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.” Alexander Pope

Author's Bio: 

Wendy McDonnell, Hons.B.Sc., CLC is a Certified Family Communications Coach with training in Psychology and teaching. She supports compassionate communication, conflict resolution for all ages, and Collaborative Divorce. If your kids are driving you nuts, and your partner is right there with them, visit and receive your gift with a newsletter subscription: 10 Simple Actions you can do today to bring more peace into your life! Free preview sessions and group coaching are also available.