So you're wrong. Where do you go from here?


Female carpenter looking at block of wood, thinkingJust edit your learning mistakes: it sounds simple and obvious. Why wouldn't we want to learn from our mistakes? But as easy as it is to say, resistance can come from some interesting places and we may not always realize it.

For example, when you feel ashamed, you may be convinced that there is something irreparably bad about you and you lose the ability to connect with others. When that happens, it makes sense to try to keep as much of a secret and hidden error as possible.

When you want to be very helpful and kind to others, you can make yourself less prone to notice a mistake, a misunderstanding, or even unintentional harm. When you don't feel confident or confident, you can react defensively to critical or provocative feedback. Generally, when people feel like a mistake is a bad thought they will not admit it.

Our very human feeling is that we do not want to hurt and are afraid to make mistakes. We imagine losing power, control, and respect if we do unintentional harm.

Our very human feeling is that we do not want to hurt and are afraid to make mistakes. We imagine losing power, control, and respect if we do unintentional harm.

Learning to make mistakes

In the early '30s, I got a job as a carpenter. At first, I was the "go-fer", wearing new blue dress uniforms and eating from a box on the TV show The French. Barney, the owner of the company, enjoyed carpentry teaching skills and hired minority workers. I was a minority person as a woman in her 80s. I loved the job and stayed, but had to go through a fairly lengthy learning process which slowed my fear of making mistakes.

I would count for pieces of timber four and five times before cutting and would ask Barney for instructions several times. I would measure the distance between the nails before hammering them. You get the idea. I was slow.

One day, Barney said, "You know, the mark of a good carpenter is not one who never makes mistakes, but someone who knows how to fix them." It took months to learn this lesson. Here I noticed: As I let go of fear, I became more skilful. The saw became an extension of my hand and not a difficult, powerful tool. As I relaxed, I worked faster and easier and made mistakes.

Because I had learned that I could correct mistakes, I could cut another piece of wood and use what was too small for something else. Plasterboard mud can cover imperfections that appear cut. I have found that fixing an error can be quite creative and produce something even better.

Process learning errors

Later, as a psychotherapist, I had to apply the same lesson. A sign of a good psychotherapist is not one who never makes mistakes, but one who knows how to identify the problem of the relationship and then resolve it and fix it. Over time and with experience, I relaxed my fear of inadvertently causing harm and developed confidence in my ability to see or feel that my impact was different from my intention. This allowed me to be able to stop, curiosity, get in touch with my client, take care of the repair and eventually learn something I could use in the future.

For one simple example, I suggested at the end of a session that a new client is writing a small magazine about the subject he brought up. In that case, I didn't know a problem until her next session, when she walked very mad at me saying that I was just like all the other therapists, with an automatic command to write journals to resolve any problems. She stopped me, recognized her rage, and then thanked her for letting me know something about her – that she hated the magazine.

I have never agreed to propose to rewrite this magazine. I could defensively try to explain that I had never ordered journaling, I just suggested it, but that would not have restored our connection. My learning was a reminder that my influence (the suggestion that sounds like command) in my role as a therapist is stronger than if I were a friend.

You have probably practiced this in your life in small ways without realizing it. In a romantic relationship, you may have learned that when someone is upset, you ask if what you need is sympathy or help with a solution. You may have learned that it's better to ask for something to change than to talk about what's not working. Starting out of small situations that may have less than a shameful reaction or a big impact on your life could help you create a consistent practice. Even the small actions of a relationship can have great effects.

Tips for turning mistakes into learning experiences

The following are some indicators for processing errors in learning:

  • Check for shame. Mistakes are not the result of irreparable evil, but of bad behavior. The mistake is what you did, not who you are. If you can turn shame into sadness and learning, maybe the same mistake won't happen again.
  • Use your curiosity to discourage defense.
  • Repeat mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Take time to reflect and self-correct.
  • In the end, let it go. Once you learn and grow from a painful experience, you don't have to carry it anymore. It's okay to let it go and move on.
  • Appreciate the opportunity to find out what this mistake has given you.

An activity for learning from mistakes

Try this positive action:

A. Think of the mistake you made – whether big or small – that you still feel bad about.

Then, follow these steps:

  • Check for shame and change it to regret (scroll from "I am" to my "I did").
  • Observe any defense and, on the contrary, be curious about the situation.
  • Reflect and identify what you can learn from it and what you can do differently next time.
  • Let it go.

B. Meet with a trusted friend who is not involved in the situation, and go through the same process – but this time, speak in loud words.

Practically sharing your vulnerability can help to stabilize the learning and create a habit of embracing the learning process. Your friend may also be able to bring other descriptions or observations to help you get away from shame. Often we are better off seeing each other's strengths than our own and tend to be friendlier to each other than to ourselves.

C. Ask someone with whom you have a persistent regret to meet you.

  • Share your sadness and worry.
  • Describe what you have learned as you think about it.
  • Ask if you can make a recipe (what would you do if you could do it again).
  • Learn how they react.
  • See if you can agree to let it go.
  • Be ready to appreciate the reflection, but not ready to let things go. This does not mean that your learning is a failure.




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