How to admit when you're wrong and what to do when you've done so
Making Mistakes and Owning Them

Making Mistakes and Owning Them

Let’s face it, we’ve all made mistakes. Inconsequential, big or absolutely life-changing, mistakes happen to everyone but not everyone deals with them the same way.

It often seems that the hardest part of making a mistake is coming to terms with what has happened and acknowledging fault – whether yours or someone else’s. So what is the best way of admitting you’ve made a mistake and dealing with it?

Making Mistakes and Owning Them

Mistakes can happen all the time, whether accidental or due to the fault of someone – be it you or somebody else. It is vital to be able to recognise when a mistake is your fault and how to become part of the solution to the problem it created. Often the problem can be easily solved by simply admitting that you have made a mistake while failing to do so can add sparks to a flame, especially in a professional situation.

Often the most difficult situation in which to admit blame for a mistake is when the consequences are minimal. That makes it remarkably easy to justify mistakes and prompt a spiralling effect of bad decisions that may escalate to a point where you can no longer contain it. The best thing to do in this situation is realise that you have made a blunder and admit it to yourself even if nobody else requires your admission of guilt. It may seem pointless but it will allow you to become a much better judge of potentially harmful situations and future mistakes.

Justifying a bad decision, even an inconsequential one instils a bad habit of doing so for every future mistake. A harsh word to a friend can easily become an irreparable fight even if you feel justified in your actions. It’s much easier to be the bigger person, own up to your mistake and thereby minimise the consequences.
So how to graciously own up to a mistake when you are at fault?

1. Step forward and confess as soon as you realise what happened

Don’t wait to see what will happen if you keep your mouth shut. This is a very bad idea for several reasons as it can result in the blame being unfairly shifted to someone else or the problem intensifying to the point where it is nigh impossible to control.

The sooner the issue can be identified, the sooner a solution can be implemented.

2. Don’t sugar-coat the issue

When you admit your mistake, be straight with everyone involved. Don’t attempt to gloss over the issue and make it seem less than it actually is. State the problem and your involvement in it directly and affirm the extent of the issue.

Doing otherwise is downright frustrating to everyone affected by the problem and can make a quick identification of (and thus, a quick solution to) the problem impossible.

3. Don’t try to shift the blame

If the blame rests entirely on you, then take all of it. With that said, don’t feel the need to accept blame that isn’t yours but likewise, be brave enough to admit when the fault is completely with you.

Saying something like “Well, I wouldn’t have done that if you did this!” is unnecessary and immature.

4. Help solve the problem

Admitting to a mistake is not enough; you have to be willing to fix the issue that you caused. Don’t wait to be forced to come up with an implement a solution – volunteer and do so with sincerity.

Instead of asking “if” you can help, ask “how” you can do so. If the problem is beyond your expertise, observe how it is fixed so that you are more knowledgeable the next time a similar issue occurs. We are not expected to be perfect all the time, but it is reasonable to expect a willingness to fix what we’ve done wrong.

Mistakes are unavoidable but if you are able to recognise when something is your fault and admit so graciously and without shifting the blame to someone else, this will help your reputation as an honest and mature person.

Making a mistake isn’t the end of the world but knowing how to deal with one can have a huge positive influence on your future personal and professional relationships.


Meet Irina Andreev

Meet Irina Andreev

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Irina is a student of Communications and International Studies from the University of Technology in Sydney.

She is fluent in three languages and has a passion for writing, travel, history, science fiction and video games. After she finishes her degree, Irina aspires to continue traveling the world and work in media and publishing.

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