“Justifying, minimizing, or defending your actions, turns small mistakes into big problems. Repair the other person’s pain rather than protecting your ego.” ~LMB
If a friend, family member, lover, or colleague comes to you in a place of upset about something you did, it’s your job to do what you can to help them. It’s not your job to respond to their hurt by telling them about your upset. Minimizing your actions, telling them they’re too sensitive, or justifying why you did what you did would also be poor moves. And yet, countless people make these moves all the time—and they are killing their relationships as a result.
When others come to you upset about your actions, it is your job to understand why they’re distressed, acknowledge your behavior, and to repair the hurt. Most people, however, don’t do this. Sadly, people often defend what they did, minimize the issue, or blame the other person for their actions. Some people will even totally hijack the moment and spin the table to talk about their upset. Crazy right? As you can imagine, not acknowledging your mistakes and making amends for them gets very old for the people around you. Imagine if almost every time you say you’re upset about something, the other person responds by saying:
- “I was tired, stop making a big deal out of my tone.”
- “That’s not true, what I said was fine. Stop being so damn sensitive.”
- “Oh my God, are we going to have this conversation? I can’t do anything right with you, can I?!”
- “I don’t like how you always bring these things up when I’m tired. What’s wrong with you? How about you stop doing that, okay? Let’s start there!”
All of these responses, and ones like them, will create more problems, not less. If you see yourself in any of these, chances are you struggle with being accountable. Living or working with someone who continually defends or spins issues is challenging at best. If you can’t ever own your mistakes, then solutions and change become near impossible. Over time, people tend to give up on you. Sadly, what could’ve been a minor issue quickly worked through becomes a significant long-standing pattern. A simple, “I’m sorry I forgot to pick up the milk, I can run back out now if you want me to” could be like a healing balm to a common mistake. Instead, though, if you say, “Look, I have a lot on my mind, so I forgot the milk, it’s not that big a deal,” then the rest of the night is likely to be filled with tension. Contrary to what you might think, that tension would have everything to do with how you responded and very little to do with the fact that you forgot the milk.
Challenge: Find the courage to own your mistakes. Don’t rationalize, defend, minimize, or dismiss your actions, or your job and relationships will pay the price. And refuse to hijack someone else’s upset by talking about yours—that becomes infuriating to be around. Own your mistakes, apologize for them, and repair the damage. And then be proud you dared to show up with such inner strength.