The other day I found myself in an embarrassing and uncomfortable situation. I had somehow forgotten to put an appointment time with a client into my book. Needless to say, I felt terrible when I got the message from my client asking me where I was and did she have the right appointment time? I felt that sick feeling in my stomach and then after a deep breath, knew I needed to put my emotional reaction aside and deal with the situation. First, I sent her the message that this was completely my mistake and that I was very sorry for it. I also apologized for wasting her time and that when clients miss our appointments, I reserve the right to charge them for it, so I thought it was only fair that in this case, I get charged for it. I told her that we would re-schedule her appointment with a waived fee.
I am not relating this story to show you what a stand-up individual I am, but rather to explore what we can do when we make a mistake. Because no matter how "on top of it" we may normally be, we are human and therefore there will be mistakes, errors and miscommunications. They're going to happen, so rather than try to be perfect, it seems much more reasonable to figure out how can we best deal with situations when we accidentally mess them up.
The first thing I needed to do was recognize my mistake. Next, to take responsibility for it. Third, to see what needed to be done to rectify the situation. If it were me on the other end of that situation, what would seem fair to me? Also, what was in my control in this situation as far as making proper amends?
After the text to my client, I followed up with a phone call. It felt more personable to speak voice to voice. I wanted her to know that it was my mistake and that I was genuinely sorry. I didn't overly apologize, but I did do so completely. Next, we went on to make arrangements for when we could re-schedule her next appointment.
It is my experience, that when we take responsibility for our mishaps, others are often willing to forgive. This doesn't mean that they won't be annoyed or even out right hurt or angry, but it can go a long way. Of course, repeatedly making the same error, may need to be in a different category than what I am talking about here.
The next thing I needed to do, once my client was addressed, was to look back at why the error occurred. Why did this happen? How could I prevent this from happening again? Basically, what can I learn from my mistake so that I am less likely to repeat it if possible?
And finally, I had to let it go. These things can stick to us in a very unhelpful way. I noticed it kept come up again and again. On some level I was still very agitated and annoyed with myself. What was going on? Was it ego? Someone - in this case, a client - knew that I wasn't perfect! I realized that I am much better with making a mistake if no one else knows about it! Somehow, this realization helped a little. So I decided I was okay. That it's okay to be human. It's okay that others are human. Actually, it's pretty wonderful.
I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or experiences - please share!