Embarrassment is part of life.
From sending out a mass email with an obvious typo to gruesomely mispronouncing a potential customer’s name, and even well-meaning attempts at humor that don’t go as planned I’ve done them all.
Instead of shrinking, becoming paralyzed, and setting my career back when these missteps happen I’ve collected three tactics to deal with them elegantly.
Respond to mistakes with action
In the aftermath of an embarrassing mishap at work avoid the urge to sit shell-shocked waiting for someone or something to fix the error.
Instead take these steps.
- Take a deep breath.
- Organize your thoughts.
- Settle on a solution
- Break that solution down into a few steps
- Plunge yourself into action on step one
I love this quote from the mountaineer William Hutchinson Murray:
Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way
Assume the best in everyone
A powerful concept I learned from the leadership here at Praxis is the principle of charitable interpretation.
To summarize, it’s the assumption that other people in your life don’t operate from a default mean or malicious position.
After making a mistake, it’s easy to assume that your colleagues, boss, and clients are constantly leering at you, or judging your shortcomings behind your back.
Studies show these fears are exaggerated.
People who commit social blunders at work, or who experience a public intellectual embarrassment anticipate being judged more harshly by others than happens in reality.
In my own experience, having a positive reaction to mistakes has an intensely positive impact on reputation. Taking action and cleaning up messes is a way to build trustworthiness.
If you prove yourself in the tough situations leaders won’t hesitate to give you more responsibility.
Explore your individuality
The inimitable Dan Sanchez warns us of “other discipline,” or the tendency to seek approval and validation from authority figures.
Instead, explore your values, and take sovereignty over what gives you meaning in life.
If you’re having trouble with this I suggest a concept from Simon Sinek’s Start with Why.
- Why your life is meaningful – Decide for yourself what makes you light up.
- How you will fulfil this core belief in your life.
- What steps you take every day to accomplish this.
I highly suggest reviewing why you exist daily. When negative experiences happen, remember that the discomfort is in service to a higher aim.
Take risks and fear nothing.