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Don’t Panic! 5 Things To Do When You’ve Screwed Up

Don’t Panic! 5 Things To Do When You’ve Screwed Up

Mistakes. We’ve all certainly made a few in our time, and the idea of committing them is never a pleasant concept. The point is that we often screw up — sometimes badly. Maybe you said the wrong thing in the heat of the moment, or did something you never would have if not for your emotional state. We’ve all been there, and it’s agonizing. The key, really, is figuring out what to do after the deed.

It’s not the end of the world if you’ve behaved badly, but you will you be treated and judged by how you handle the aftermath. If you’ve messed up at work or dropped a bit of a misfire in the home realm, then check out this quick-fire guide to five of the best things to do when you’ve screwed up.

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1. Apologize immediately.

Saying “sorry” really is the best policy when it comes to committing a screw-up of any magnitude. Staying indifferent is insulting and implies that you don’t even care, which comes across as deeply rude. Therefore, you should apologize immediately to the parties concerned.

You might have to eat a bit of humble pie at one point or another, but that’s the price that comes with being less than perfect. Choosing to select the more honorable route and apologize for your mistakes might be more awkward than burying your head in the sand and walking away, but it will also earn you respect, friends, forgiveness, and self-esteem. So when you’ve screwed up, apologize sincerely, and get right back to work.

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2. Get some perspective and a reality check.

One of the most important things to do when you’ve screwed up is to take a step back and gain some perspective and/or a reality check on the situation. Hopefully, the situation you’ve just instigated isn’t too serious (i.e. something that will result in a stint in criminal court or your family never speaking to you again), and if so, it helps to try to logically and objectively evaluate what you’ve done.

If your screw-up is fixable, that’s something to be grateful for. And while it might have an effect on the people you care about or work with or spend time with, you can probably resolve this problem. Chances are you haven’t killed anyone, ruined anyone’s life, or caused anyone major distress. As the great philosopher Cicero said, “Dum spiro spero” which means, “While I breathe, I hope.”

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3. Make sure it doesn’t happen again by crafting a plan.

It’s okay to make mistakes; everyone screws up once in a while (yes, even that picture-perfect, sweet-as-pie girl in the office or that immaculately put-together guy down the street). The point is that screwing up is inevitable, but it’s what we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again that really matters in the long term. Basically? Make a plan.

Decide exactly what you did wrong, and really think about what you can do in the future to help prevent that from happening again. Learn something, remember something, put something into place — make a concerted effort. After you’ve sorted your plan out, go to the person who you offended or affected with your screw-up, tell them what you’re going to do to prevent it from ever happening again, and then let the chips fall where they may. It’s human to make mistakes, but what makes you a great person is how you recover from them and ensure that you never hurt the same person like that again.

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4. Take a break.

One of the best things to do is to get yourself out of the environment in which the mistake occurred, to stop your mind from dwelling on the situation. Staying in that immediate environment and muling over the mistake you made is only going to cause you to lose your focus, drop your ability to work and live in that situation, and end up in a shame spiral.

Go and take a breather; get yourself out of that office, or home, or wherever, and take a walk somewhere. Get yourself out of that negative headspace that will continue to haunt your mind and affect your ability to be a normal, functioning human being. Take a solid 15 minutes to gather your energy and strengths, and make your plan.

5. Be kind to yourself.

Finally, practice a bit of self-compassion following a moment of guilt and sadness over a mistake. In a world where we’re expected to be flawless human beings with physical perfection and ideal lives, the idea of screwing up seems almost horrific. It isn’t. You’re human. It’s okay to mess up.

Don’t go beating yourself up, and and don’t dwell on your mistake to the point of it having a detrimental effect on your mental health or your ability to be yourself around friends, coworkers, and loved ones. They’re human too, and the vast majority of people will readily help you recover and allow you to sincerely apologize. Take a deep breath, try to calm yourself down, and remember that it isn’t the end of the world. You can always start again, and when your head hits the pillow, just remember Scarlett O’Hara’s classic, life-affirming adage, “After all… tomorrow’s another day!”

More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

If you pay attention to your everyday life careful enough, you’ll know that you can learn from everything and everyone you come across. Our life is basically full of useful lessons that we should learn.

Here are 26 useful things to learn that Abhishek A. Singh shared on Quora. Let’s see how these life theories would lead you to live a different life.

1. Primacy and recency: People mostly remember the first and last things that occurred, barely the middle.

When scheduling an interview, ask the employer the time slots they do interviews and try to be the first or the last.

2. If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind, put a mirror behind you at the counter.

In this way, angry customers who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you and the chance of them behaving irrationally will be lowered significantly.

3. Once you make a sales pitch, don’t say anything else.

This works in sales, but it can also be applied in other ways.

My previous boss was training me and just gave me pointers. I was working at a gym trying to sell memberships. He told me that once I got all the small talk out of the way and presented the prices, the first person to talk would lose.

It didn’t seem like a big deal but it actually worked. Often there were long periods of awkward silence as the person tried to come up with some excuses, but usually they bought.

4. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait.

If you stay silent and keep eye contact, they will usually continue to talk.

5. Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that would make you nervous, like public speaking or bungee jumping.

When we eat, our brain tell ourselves, “I would not be eating if I were danger. So I’m not in danger.” This has helped me to stay calm.

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6. People will always remember how you made them feel, not what you said.

Also, most people like talking about themselves; so ask lots of questions about them.

7. When you’re learning something new, teach it to a friend. Let them ask you questions about it.

If you’re able to teach something well, you will be sure that you’ve understood it very well.

8. If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you.

It doesn’t always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen the next time.

9. The physical effects of stress — breathing rate and heart rate — are almost identical to the physical effects of courage.

When you’re feeling stressed in any situations, immediately reframe it : Your body is getting ready to be courageous, you are NOT stressed.

10. Pay attention to people’s feet.

If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join in the conversation.

Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.

11. Confidence is more important than knowledge.

Don’t be intimidated by anyone, everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask.

12. If you pretend to be something for long enough, you will eventually become it.

Fake it till you make it. Period.

13. Not to be creepy, but if you want to stare at someone unashamedly, look directly past them and wait for them to try and meet your eyes.

When they fail to do that, they’ll look around (usually nervously for a second) they won’t look at you again for some time. This is your chance to straight up stare at this person for at least 45 seconds.

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And as suggested by Brian Stutzman:

If you’re staring at someone and get caught, DON’T turn your head or your body to look away, because that just confirms that you were staring.

Just move your EYEBALLS off the person. Unlike turning your head, it’s instantaneous. And the person will think you were just looking at something behind them and that they were mistaken for thinking you were staring. Do it confidently, and ignore any reaction from the person, and you can sell it every single time.

After a second, you can even look back at them with a “Why are you staring at me?” look on your face to really cement the deal!

14. Build a network.

Become the information source, and let the information be yours. Even grabbing a beer with a former colleague once a year will keep you in the loop at the old office.

Former coworkers might have gotten a new position in that office you always wanted to work in, great! Go to them for a beer, and ask about the office. It’s all about connections and information.

15. If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother…

Pretend it is your grandmother, it will significantly reduce your road rage.

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    16. Stand up straight.

    No slouching, hands out of pockets, and head held up high. It’s not just a cliche — you literally feel better and people around you feel more confident in you.

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    17. Avoid saying “I think,” and “I believe” unless absolutely necessary.

    These are phrases that do not evoke confidence, and will literally do you no good.

    18. When feeling anxious, clean up your home or work space.

    You will feel happier and more accomplished than before.

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      19. Always buy the first pitcher or round of drinks.

      You’d be surprised how long you could drink on the phrase “I bought the first one.”

      20. Going into an interview… be interested in your interviewers.

      If you focus on learning about them, you’ll seem to be more interesting and dynamic. (Again, people love to talk about themselves.)

      21. Pay attention parents! Always give your kid a choice that makes them think they are in control.

      For instance, when I want my son to put his shoes on I will say ,”do you want to put your star wars shoes on or your shark shoes on?”

      Pro-tip: In some cases, this works on adults.

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        22. Your action affects your attitude more than your attitude affects your action.

        As my former teacher said “You can jump and dance FOR joy, but you can also jump and dance yourself joyful.”

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        23. When a group of people laugh, people will instinctively look at the person they feel closest to in that group.

        Notice who you look at and who look at you when you laugh with a group of people!

        24. If you want to build rapport or gain someone’s trust quickly, match their body posture and position.

        If someone is sitting with her legs crossed, cross your legs. If they’re leaning away from you, lean away from them. If they’re leaning towards you, lean towards them.

        Mirroring and matching body position is a subconscious way to tell if someone trusts you or is comfortable with you. If you’re sitting with your arms crossed and you notice someone else is sitting with her arms crossed, that is a good indicator that you have/are successfully built/building rapport with that person.

        25. The Benjamin Franklin Effect (suggested by Matt Miller)

        I find the basis of the Benjamin Franklin effect is very useful and extends far beyond pencil borrowing. This knowledge is useful in the world of flirting too.

        Asking a girl in your class if you can borrow a pencil or her notes or to explain the homework will make her more likely to like you than if you let her borrow your stuff or are the one to help her. Even just asking a girl to buy you drinks (facetiously) leaves a much bigger impression than offering to or actually buying a girl a drink.

        The best part is it kills 3 birds with one stone: you get the advantages of the favor itself, the person subconsciously likes you more, and it makes them more open to future favors and conversation.

        26. Handle panic and anxiety behaviors by tapping fingers (Suggested by Jade Barbee)

        When you’re feeling stressed, worried or angry, tap each finger tip while thinking (or speaking quietly) a few specific words about what is bothering you. Repeat the same words while tapping each of your 10 fingers, including thumbs.

        For example, tap while saying, “I’m so angry with her…” Doing so will likely take the charge out of the feeling and return you to a more resourceful (better feeling) state of being. It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping,” and it is useful in many life situations – emotional sadness, physical pain, food cravings, traumatic memories…

        Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

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