Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Friendly Pruning

The other day I made a mistake in an assignment I was doing. I was told of my mistake and felt kind of foolish at first because I thought I knew better. However, as I interacted later with the person who had corrected me, I realized he thought no less of me. In fact, even when he corrected me, it was done with a smile. As I felt his support and good will towards me, my feelings of foolishness soon left and I was able to focus on what I could learn from my mistake. Perhaps, I had taken some things for granted that I could now pay more attention to. Or perhaps, I really didn’t know better and needed to learn and practice more. Or maybe I just needed to realize that we all make mistakes from time to time and chalk it up to being human.

Because I felt my “corrector’s” friendliness and support, I could focus my energies on learning from my mistake. How different it would have been if he had looked down on me, frowned instead of smiled or shook his head disapprovingly at me. Then my energies more likely would have been focused on how foolish I was, how I didn’t like working in this “hostile environment” or what was wrong with me that I should make such a mistake. In other words, my energies would have been focused on feeling bad about myself or the other person instead of learning from my mistake.

The fact is, we do and will always make mistakes because we are human and we are continually learning, growing and developing. However, the likelihood of actually learning from our mistakes so we will make them less often, increases significantly when our mistakes are corrected with warmth and support rather than coldness and disdain. This is true in work relationships, parent-child relationships, husband-wife relationships and even in the words we say to ourselves.


  1. Thanks for your positive learning example. We agree wholeheartedly with your message.
    John and Jean

  2. I agree. We will always make mistakes. Learning from mistakes builds confidence! The woman who taught me that was a boss that was not "warm" to me when I made mistakes. What are some things we can do and tell ourselves when people are not "warm" to our mistakes?

  3. Excellent question. As you recognize that learning from mistakes does build confidence, it becomes easier to focus on that rather than on the person's lack of warmth in making the correction. Some helpful self-talk might be: "This person is not being very nice and it would be nice if she were a little more patient etc. However, I can still learn something valuable here and I'm going to choose to do that."