What are the Secrets to Dealing with a Mistake?

This has been one of favourite tools in My Personal Policy Manual for many years, because as a young adult I would be riddled with guilt over the smallest error. Gradually, I realized that, in addition to correcting my critical and unhelpful self-talk, I could also do somethings directly about the mistake. These are the actions that I take when I’ve made a mistake and I find they also help ease the guilt and help me move on.

  1. First, acknowledge a mistake has been made. Sometimes, it is as simple as saying, “Oops, I made a boo-boo.” Or, for more serious issues, “I’ve made an error. Can we sit down and talk?”
  2. Apologize for the mistake. It is always helpful to say this upfront and when it is an upsetting or big error you will very likely need to say, “I’m sorry!” more than once.
  3. Do what ever you can to correct the mistake or the damage. I often ask, “What can I do to make it better?”
  4. And finally, consider what needs to be done to prevent the mistake from being repeated. When the mistake has been processed, the apology accepted and you’ve been able to help make it better, then ask, “What can I do so that this doesn’t happen again?”

Ultimately, it is important that we are compassionate with ourselves and others. We need to accept that we are human and mistakes will happen.  Surprisingly, it is not unusual that the crisis can make the relationship even stronger!




There are so many people who feel anxious and sad because of their negative self talk. They become their own worst enemies by becoming their own self critical parent. They are extra-critical when they make mistakes. That is when they judge themselves harshly. Such people have high expectations from others as well as themselves. That is why they are easily disappointed in themselves.

I share with such people that we are all human. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. But mistakes are one way of learning new things in life. If that mistake involves another person then I suggest that they to meet or write to that person and acknowledge the mistake, ask for forgiveness and make plans not to repeat the mistake. I suggest to such people that rather than judging they need to learn to forgive themselves.

Let me share a personal example. There was a time I tried to remember all my social engagements. And then one day I realized that I had double booked myself. I was very disappointed in myself as I felt irresponsible and insensitive. But then I decided to call both friends and apologize. Since my friends know that I am generally a responsible and caring friend they forgave me and suggested that I not worry about it. So I forgave myself and since then I put all my social engagements in my calendar. Retrospectively, I can see that making that mistake helped me become a more organized and responsible person.

The more we are able to forgive ourselves and our dear ones and learn from our mistakes, the more our mistakes help us in becoming better human beings and change our self talk. Gradually we become our best friends rather than our worst enemies.


Dr. Sohail

6 thoughts to “What are the Secrets to Dealing with a Mistake?”

  1. Hello,

    I am reading this rather late but I found that this article has very useful content for me. Bette’s part delivers useful practical advice about dealing with the mistake you made so you can avoid the negative consequences. Dr. Sohail’s part provides a passionate advice on how to internally resolve. I have found myself to be the kind of person having a lot of expectations from me and others, as if we are all supposed to be supernaturals, but yes, we are all humans and probably this is the beauty of it. It is probably more important to live with mistakes, ours and others and overlook them, correct them and learn from them, rather than expecting that there be no mistakes.

    Recently I came upon this page which gives me thinking beyond mistakes, I hope you will enjoy it too:


    Best regards

    1. Dear Jahanzeb, Since this Blog was inspired by you, I am glad you were able to read it. Better late than never. Peacefully, Dr Sohail

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with admitting you have made a mistake, apologize if necessary (if you have offended or created a conundrum for someone else). If it’s a minor mishap it is important to burst out laughing to diffuse the situation – if it is a serious matter – first apologize sincerely then do your best to rectify the situation or fix the problem. Forgive yourself and move on. Everyone makes mistakes. Some of us, more than others. During a mishap my brother shouts “May Day!” While I yell “Oy Vey” I laugh, he sets to fixing the problem. We understand one another and that is the secret to feeling safe and sound following a mistake. The hardest aftermath of a mistake is when the other person(s) doesn’t know you very well and isn’t sure or confident in your ability or integrity. Righting that possible impression is through your sincere apology and efforts to right the wrong. So admit away, shout May Day and admit your mistake and fix it.

    May all of your monsters be Care Bears.

    1. Hi Georgina! You make me laugh!
      And it is a Great suggestion…humor is one of the most sophisticated coping mechanisms!
      Really enjoy your posts!

  3. With lots of help from some really good people, I’m slowly learning that while it’s easy to let a small difficulty of any kind get bigger and bigger, learning to turn off the self-criticism helps me to look at problems in a more realistic manner.
    Thank you, Dr. sohail, for your blog and your help.

    1. Dear Barbara, In Green Zone Philosophy becoming aware of one’s inner and outer, social and emotional triggers is half of the battle. The more we become aware of them, the more we feel confident to deal with them in a healthy way. Thanks for your insightful comment. Stay in touch.
      Dr Sohail

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