Day 318: Other people’s mistakes

I’ve written several times, this year, about perfectionism. (For example, herehere, and here.)

Nobody is perfect — including the writer and the readers of this post.  As humans, we all make mistakes, every day. (Probably, we all make mistakes every hour.)

I react differently to the Making of Mistakes, though, depending upon who is doing the mistake-making.

When I realize that I have made a mistake, this is my usual response:

I feel awful.

Here are some typical, automatic thoughts I have:

Oh, no!  I made a mistake!  I should have paid better attention. This is really going to be a problem for other people, too.  What’s the matter with me?

It’s a different story, though, when somebody else makes a mistake. Often, I forgive other people their mistakes.

It’s much easier to remember that everybody makes mistakes, when it’s everybody else.

However, when somebody makes a mistake that has a direct, negative impact on me,  that’s a different story, too.

Then, this is my usual response:

I feel awful.

Here are some typical, automatic thoughts I have:

Oh, no! This other person made a mistake!  And that really caused me some discomfort. What do I do now?  How do I tell them about it? They’ll probably think it’s MY fault, too!  How can I prove it’s NOT? Maybe it IS my fault, somehow! And what if it’s NOT my fault and they don’t own up to that? THEN what do I do?   Also, if I mattered and was important enough to them, they would have been more careful!  Now I’m angry!  NOW what do I do? If I express my anger, I’ll probably alienate them!  I don’t want to lose them!  But I don’t want to pretend that it’s all okay with me, either, because it’s NOT!

This is what I notice about THAT, now.

When somebody else makes a mistake, I tend to have MORE thoughts.


Well, I’m really used to my own mistakes. I KNOW (by living with myself) how imperfect I am: I’ve got lots of proof about that. At times in the past, I’ve thought of myself as a screw-up — somebody who constantly make mistakes.

So THAT’s familiar.

But, somehow, I’ve never gotten used to other people’s mistakes.

Why is that?

This is my best guess, right now: When I was a little kid, I needed important people — upon whom I depended —  to NOT make major mistakes.  (And they made mistakes, of course. They were human.)

I know I’m not alone, in that.

Here’s a personal example of that: I  needed the doctors keeping me alive —  through surgeries and new technologies — to NOT make major mistakes. Big time.

So, my wish —  even as an adult — is that people NOT make mistakes. But they do, of course, every day.

Also, if somebody makes a mistake that has a negative effect on me and doesn’t own it, I can feel some anger about that (naturally). And as I wrote, two days ago, I can be a little clueless about anger, once I have it.

So there you have it: My reactions to other people’s mistakes.

It’s easy for me to write this post today, dear readers, because somebody — whom I’ve yet to meet —  made a mistake last night which did have a negative impact on me.  At this writing, the person is not owning the mistake, which may or may not change.

This is what I’ve done, so far, this morning, to deal with this:

  1. I wrote an e-mail to the person, pointing out the facts.
  2. By focusing on the facts, I let go of any wish to affect the other person’s feelings about this in any way.
  3. I worked on this blog post.

All those things helped.

What’s missing, for me, right now?

A cool image, for this post!

My next step: consult my iPhone for recent photos.

Oh!  Here’s one:


Recently, I saw this hand-written message on a sign, regarding a overdue repair to a machine.

So there you have it, my dear readers:  Another way to respond to other people’s mistakes.

Thanks to everybody who makes and responds to mistakes and to you — of course! — for visiting here today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “Day 318: Other people’s mistakes

  1. Obsession with perfectionism in others is not appropriate but we can expect that one does his best. I try to do each task and project as perfectly as I can and leave it at that. More of us do need an improved sense of craftsmanship in our efforts. I just got my third proof of my soon to be published 100 cartoon book and found a duplicate image. Now I have to contact publisher and do another correction delete/add wasting two more weeks. Since this has been decades in the making I will not let this slip by at this point. On the other hand my art is not digitally created and professional looking but it is the best I can do with hand drawing and am satisfied with the less than perfect result.Plus a homemade look has a special charm.

  2. Forgiveness… and I slip up on this all the time….For them and for yourself. Great post. Thanks for stopping my – I would have hated to miss this. Susan x

  3. Love your insight about yourself and not just yourself all of us. Thank you!

  4. I have trouble with this one ALL the time ie: standing up for myself when someone else has made a mistake, or done me wrong. I have read about doing what you have done (sticking only to the facts) but also going one step further in stating how their actions made you feel and what you need and never to speak in terms of them and how bad or otherwise they were. Then (supposedly) you go away and let go of the other person’s response as you are not responsible for it. I am not sure whether this really works all the time and I personally still have trouble with it, especially when dealing with angry people.

  5. clayton paul

    Wow…super post! I have an “ex” who continues to pound on me for finally calling an end to our marriage…12 years ago! We tried everything to improve it, I went further with that effort than she did. I wound up apologizing, asking forgiveness, etc.

    Nothing has ever worked. It was that old saying: “When I did right, she never remembered. When I did wrong, she never forgot!” Sad…

    I like harmony, (the feeling, not the dating site!) I like “forgive and forget.” It’s part of my mantra. It’s part of my commitment to God. More people need to follow the advice in this post…forgive and move on!


  6. My biggest struggle is extending understanding and forgiveness when the other person is unwilling to admit they have made a mistake… If someone fesses up like “hey I just hit your car in the parking lot” then I’m all friendly and “no big deal!” but if someone hits my car and then drives away… I make it my sole purpose in life to find them and punish them. That’s quite a wide spectrum, I’m afraid!

  7. Thank you for the thought-provoking post, Ann. I hope the mistake someone else made that you mentioned toward the end of your post works itself out in the best possible way.

  8. You are a very talented writer Ann, and I find it amazing that you have been coming up with an interesting post topic EVERY DAY!!!! As for the mistakes – some are tolerable and others aren’t, and yet they both happen because nothing and noone is perfect. I totally agree with Aussa Lorens; when someone admits his mistake and even feels bad about it I have empathy. But those who think they know everything (better) and don’t take responsibility for their errors, those are on my wanted list until I get them. 😉

  9. Pingback: Day 345: Things That Won’t Kill Me | The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally

  10. Pingback: Day 1066: Other people | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

  11. Pingback: Day 1500: Mistakes | The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

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