Oops! How to deal with mistakes

Oops! How to deal with mistakesMistakes – big and small – everyone makes them. So how can you make the best of a situation when thing go wrong?

Fess up

A small mistake can soon start to spiral out of a control. The earlier you can admit you’ve made a mistake, the easier it is to deal with. The best thing to do is to speak to the person directly involved – be it your teacher, boss, parent, relative or friend. If that seems too big a step, talk to someone who can support you first. Keeping things to yourself can make them seem worse than they really are.

Say sorry

A straight-forward apology, recognising that you’ve made a mistake, goes a long way to patching things up. Take responsibility for your own actions and don’t blame others. Most people are very forgiving – after all, everyone makes mistakes.

Put things right

What can you do to fix the situation? Are there any simple solutions? If you can’t think what to do yourself, ask the person affected if there’s anything you can do to put things right.

“The good thing about all mistakes, large or small, is that they provide superb learning opportunities,” Peter Honey


“Inside every mistake there are lessons waiting to get out,” says Dr Peter Honey, who helps companies and employees work better. With success, he says, people tend to celebrate when things go well without always understanding why. With mistakes, people are more likely to work out why things go wrong so they can avoid the same thing happening again. “The good thing about all mistakes, large or small, is that they provide superb learning opportunities.”

See the possibilities

When things go wrong it can give you the chance to take stock, ask bigger questions and explore new possibilities. What can you do differently? If one thing isn’t working, is there anything else you fix at the same time? Are you on the right path in any case? The inventor of the post-it note was actually trying to create a super-strong glue. Could your mistake take you in another direction?

Move on

Don’t dwell on what’s done – you can’t change what’s happened but you can shape your future.  Handling mistakes or wrong decisions well is a really valuable skill. In the world of work this is often talked about in terms such as resilience (bouncing back), perseverance (not giving up),and self-development (learning) – all part of building your wider experience.  Leave any negative thoughts behind and focus instead on taking your positive next step.

Finally, don’t despair – what seems awful at the time, can be something to laugh about or make for a really good story years later!

Find out more

Whatever your problem, here’s how you can speak to someone who can help.