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Even though nobody’s perfect, there’s a weird thing in American business culture of never admitting mistakes.

The usual reason is that admitting a mistake could open the doors to a lawsuit–but this is bunk, as has been shown in medical research (tl;dr version: admitting mistakes and engaging in honest communication with patients cut malpractice costs by over 50%).

The truth is that most people and companies just don’t like to admit mistakes. It’s hard, it’s embarassing, and if the mistake was highly visible or expensive, it can feel like an end of the world moment.

But from the other side–the perspective of the victim of the error–things look completely different. Admitting a mistake (especially when the stakes are high) makes you look responsible, honest, and trustworthy.

Mistakes are also opportunities. As the old saying goes (I heard it in flight school), “Experience is just a series of nonfatal mistakes.” Taking ownership of a mistake empowers you to learn, change processes, and improve. Even taking ownership of someone else’s mistake can be highly empowering: often there are things you can change to make a mistake less likely or less damaging.

When the excrement hits the whirling blades, it’s natural to hope it wasn’t your mistake. And it’s natural to be relieved if it wasn’t. That’s my reaction, too.

But if you screwed up, admit it. It hurts, but it’s the best way to turn a mistake into experience.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Leppik
Peter U. Leppik is president and CEO of Vocalabs. He founded Vocal Laboratories Inc. in 2001 to apply scientific principles of data collection and analysis to the problem of improving customer service. Leppik has led efforts to measure, compare and publish customer service quality through third party, independent research. At Vocalabs, Leppik has assembled a team of professionals with deep expertise in survey methodology, data communications and data visualization to provide clients with best-in-class tools for improving customer service through real-time customer feedback.


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