Turning mistakes, missteps and misunderstandings into opportunities

by | Jul 15, 2021

Darcy Luoma is one of America’s most highly credentialed coaches. She’s worked in 48 industries, with more than 500 organizations, and has impacted tens of thousands of leaders and employees.


Whether it’s accidentally CCing the whole office in a personal email or snapping at a colleague who asks for project updates, we’ve all taken a few missteps our professional relationships. At best, they can be slightly embarrassing. At worst, they can leave us with some lovely people problems.

But when we train to be Thoughtfully Fit, we can practice Balance and turn our mistakes into opportunities. In the process, we may even deepen the connection in our professional relationships.

I recently experienced an example of this with one of our vendors. Our new point of contact (we’ll call her Jenny) did something that would make any of us cringe. She sent a confidential text to the wrong person.

Owning Our Mistakes

Jenny accidentally sent me a text that was meant for her boss. I will spare you the details of the message, but it was concerning our account, and the whole situation had me thinking, Yikes!

Not wanting to embarrass her, I took a moment to Pause and Think about the best way to Act. How should I respond? “I don’t think this was meant for me,” “OMG,” or simply “😮?” But before I could decide, Jenny followed up with a second message—which impressed me.

After realizing she’d made a mistake, Jenny owned up to it and addressed it head-on. The hardest part of tough conversations can be deciding to show up instead of ignoring it. When we mess up, the feeling of wanting to avoid dealing with it can be overwhelming. It can have you searching for the closest filing cabinet to hide behind. Believe me, I know.

But by admitting your mistake, you let the other person know how invested you are in the relationship. It builds trust.

Achieving Realignment After Our Missteps

Jenny could’ve easily lied or not addressed the text at all. Instead she apologized, let me know that she informed her boss of the incident, and resolved to make things right between us.

Now that’s what I call being thoughtful!

Her response was crafted with professionalism, tact, and vulnerability. It not only strengthened my trust in her, but also in the company she worked for.

Approaching our missteps with intention can be difficult, especially if this isn’t your first instinct. So here are some tips to help you achieve realignment the next time a conversational faux pas starts wreaking havoc and causing imbalance.

  1. Map Your Route to Realignment. Before addressing a mistake, do a little prep work and map out how you want the conversation to go. Consider what you want to say, how you want to say it, and how you want the other person to feel.
  2. Connect with Empathy. During the conversation, make sure you are connecting with the other person by listening to them intently. Determine which of the three C’s of communication can help you achieve realignment.
  3. Discuss Your Next Steps. When you’re working toward realignment, it’s important to discuss intentional steps you can each take to achieve Balance and prevent further missteps. Don’t assume you know—it’s safer to ask and create a plan together.

After Jenny addressed the situation head-on, I felt more confident in the work she was doing for us (even more than before she made this mistake!). Because of her response, I knew she was committed to our professional relationship and that I could trust her to handle whatever challenges came her way thoughtfully. Have you ever experienced this with a company that disappointed you—their customer service to make it right was so stellar you became a super fan?

The next time you fumble in a conversation, like unintentionally overreacting at your co-worker who missed a deadline, use it as an opportunity to practice Balance and achieve realignment. It’ll save you the trouble of dealing with painful people problems later on (or finding a new hiding place!).

One-minute-workoutOne-Minute Core Workout

Remember that consistency and training is key to success. So, engage your core for best results.

  • Pause. The next time you realize you’ve committed a relationship faux pas, Pause.
  • Think. Ask yourself, What would it look like to address this thoughtfully? What steps can I take to achieve realignment and Balance?
  • Act. Backtrack and address your mistake head-on and with intention.

When it comes to the workplace, life never fails to supply us with mistakes that throw our relationships off balance. Start seeing those mistakes as opportunities to create a deeper connection. Show up to the conversation and handle your mess-up thoughtfully.

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