How to Recover From a Serious Mistake and Gain Respect Doing So

This article aims to illuminate a path toward legitimate self improvement when there seems to be no hope.

The process of making a mistake, correcting the things gone wrong, and learning from the experience comes with painful realizations. Mistakes force us to accept our factual imperfections, and sometimes serve to tear apart visions we had of ourselves. When our mistakes are acknowledged by others, we tend to feel a sort of shame and embarrassment.

The way others perceive us is an important thing to manage, and mistakes can ruin the perceptions we try so hard to uphold. Making a serious mistake can hurt your image in the eyes of others, lead to you being seen as unreliable, and can serve to negate the hard work you’ve put into building a certain reputation.

The process of correcting a mistake is always subject to improvement. Learning from your mistakes is a philosophy you may have already heard of and live by. However, improving your reputation in the face of making serious mistakes may not be something you’ve considered to be possible. Rather than your reputation, image, and perceived level of skill taking a hit upon making a mistake, this article proposes some points of focus in order to make mistakes benefit you in the eyes of those around.

Limit Justifications

Mistakes you make will either be discovered by others or yourself. Upon discovery of a mistake you make, accept responsibility at once. Once it is proven that you’re the person who made a mistake – whether it be at work, with friends, or online – accept full responsibility for the mistake. It is generally clear when you’re at fault for making a mistake, thereby making justifications for a mistake you made does not serve to benefit you in any way. Understand the reasons for your mistake, but avoid voicing these reasons as excuses in an effort to limit damage.

Accepting full responsibility for making a mistake will disarm those who are angered over the mistake. The people your mistake affects will likely be unimpressed, but taking full responsibility at once will work to silence their critiques at their roots. If you make justifications for a mistake in an effort to control the responses of people you’ve angered, they will tend to look for rebuttals to your justifications.

The people around you will want closure surrounding the mistake, and will work hard to label the person responsible for making the mistake in question. The longer you go without fully accepting the burden of being responsible for the ache those around you feel, the more pressure will be placed on you to do so. Limiting justifications is the first and necessary step in the process of turning the tide around, it does not encompass the whole task. Get this step over with.

Any justifications will only entice them to place more blame on you. Justifications can be perceived as excuses and a failure of accepting responsibility on your part. If you accept responsibility for your mistake, do not leave any grey areas around the topic. The first step to making mistakes work in your favor is to swallow your pride in the moment and own them. The mistakes you make are now opportunities for growth, and challenging ones at that. Make it clear that you’re up for the challenge of fixing the mistake you’ve made. Do not look back in time for justifications in order to save face.​


Assess Damage Honestly

Once you’ve accepted full responsibility for making your mistake, the focus will shift to assessing damage and fixing the issues caused by the mistake. At work, assessing damage may take place via email communication. With friends, it may be through text messages, and with family, it may be a conversation around the dinner table. When assessing damage caused by a mistake you’ve made, you need to be willing to lead the conversation.

Assess damage honestly, and look through every corner/crevice for potential effects caused by the mistake you’ve made. How many people have been affected? What has been damaged? How widespread are the effects of your mistake?

For example, let’s take the simple mistake of spilling a cup of coffee on your friend’s expensive carpet:

Assessing the damage can involve seeing whether the carpet has been discolored, exactly how much coffee has been spilled, and whether the liquid made it all the way through the carpet. Be absolutely diligent in assessing potential effects of the mistake you’ve made.

What are the risks of not properly cleaning coffee out of the carpet? Will there be a smell left over? Will the stain ever go away? Research every aspect of the process of spilling coffee on a carpet. Find out what material the carpet is made of, and what tools are best to clean the material. Envision every fiber of the carpet soaking in the spilled coffee, and prepare yourself to extract the coffee from each and every fiber.

Assessing damage to an extreme level of detail will help you prepare mitigation strategies. You’ll know what brush to use, what soap to wash the carpet with, and whether you should scrub the carpet harshly or softly dab it in an effort to get the liquid out.

Allow those affected by your mistake to notice your dedication in assessing the damage that you’ve caused. The only way to fully clean your mess is to know exactly how much of a mess you’ve made. Do not give anyone else the opportunity to point out potential damage caused by your mistake. Compile an exhaustive report of the damage that you’ve caused and show others your dedication in mitigating everything on that report.​


Scrub Until Every Rag Is Ruined

Now that you’ve gotten a clear and detailed understanding of what damage your mistake has caused, it’s time to clean up the mess. Similar to how you led the effort in analyzing damage caused, you must now lead the effort in mitigating it. Be willing to leave absolutely no lingering effects of the mistake which you’ve made. The best way to learn from your mistakes is to mitigate them in their entirety. You’ll grow to learn just how damaging simple mistakes can be, and how far their effects can travel.

Have the mindset of scrubbing the carpet until every rag is ruined. Be willing to sacrifice happiness, time, and energy in order to fix a mistake. Stay at work after everyone’s gone home, scrub until your hands are sore and your knees are bruised, and communicate with everyone who’s been affected by your mistake.

Becoming obsessed with fixing your mistakes will show others the seriousness that you interpret your actions with. Get into a habit of feeling the brunt of the full effects of all your actions. Try to not allow others to clean things up for you. If you’re called on to learn new things in order to clean up your mistakes, then try to learn them.

Keeping these approaches in mind when making a mistake will hopefully show the ones around that you’re willing to go the extra mile when things go awry. They will be confident in your mitigation techniques, and will be more likely to ask you for help when they make a mistake of their own. If you always steer clear of making mistakes, you won’t be able to be assessed by how well you handle real pressure situations and how calm you stay amidst a storm. Impress people upon making a mistake and rise to the occasion of mitigating it fully.

Read our analyses of current events by becoming a subscriber.

Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.