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Minimize the Impact of Your Mistakes With These 6 Strategies

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It’s a fact of life: Everyone makes mistakes. People who are at the very top of their game make mistakes. If you’re trying something new, there’s an even better chance you’re going to make a mistake. 

Should you let that stop you? Absolutely not. In fact, I’d go so far as to say if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t really living. 

If you insist that you are trying new things, but you aren’t taking any missteps -- well, I’d advise you to look at your actions a little more closely. Refusing to acknowledge when a misstep occurs is even worse!

Related: 4 Costly Business Blunders Entrepreneurs Make

I used to let mistakes upset me, because I’m a perfectionist. But over the years, my attitude has changed. Now I just want to move on quickly. Even so, I’m still interested in minimizing the impact of my mistakes as much as possible. Yes, mistakes will be made. But I like to think that I have at least some degree of control over how much they affect my business.

On social media, mistakes play out in front of the public eye all the time. I think how companies and individuals respond to their mistakes is as telling, if not more, than the mistake itself. Whatever you do, don’t panic. Wait until you’ve had time to process to acknowledge and respond to a mistake. People are more forgiving than you might think. After all, we’ve been there.

These are the strategies I use to help me.

1. Take control of managing the mistake. 

Dealing with a mistake requires a strategy. If you’re the boss, you should be in charge of implementing that strategy, because it’s your business that’s on the line. More often than not, the person who made the mistake does not have as much invested. They are not going to look at it the same way you do, which is why you need to take full responsibility for how it’s handled.

2. Listen deeply. 

When a mistake is made, it’s natural to become emotional. Before you react, make an effort to listen. If you want to learn from the mistake, you must understand why it happened in the first place. The only way to do that is to listen deeply to all who were involved. Did a breakdown in communication happen somewhere down the line? 

It’s also worth adding that there’s a difference between active and passive listening. When I say to listen deeply, I don’t mean wait until someone is done speaking so you can get your turn in. I mean focus intensely on what the person is saying. Give them a chance to explain themselves fully. Pause before speaking.

3. Always think of your customer first. 

When a mistake has been made, I ask myself, “How is this going to affect my customers?” Doing so reminds me of what is really important. My business is about my customers. They are my first priority. Putting things into perspective makes me less likely to overreact. Most mistakes just aren’t a big deal.

Related: You're Actually Hurting Your Business With These 5 'Productive' Habits

4. Resist the temptation to blame someone (or something) else. 

Just last week, Rolling Stone published a note to its readers that implied that the “discrepancies” in the magazine’s article about rape at the University of Virginia were the fault of the story’s protagonist, Jackie, and not its reporting. The reaction on Twitter was swift and merciless. Quietly, over the weekend, Rolling Stone changed the note’s wording. By failing to acknowledge its own culpability, the magazine’s reputation suffered even further. Don’t make the same mistake.

5. Prepare for potential fallout in advance. 

We recently recognized that we needed to have our website redesigned -- but we didn’t ask the right questions before doing so. We should have asked an expert what to expect. Because we didn’t, we were ill-prepared to deal with what came next. Asking someone who had gone through a similar experience would have helped us a lot.

6. Understand the difference between temporary and long-lasting solutions. 

Some fixes are just Band-Aids. They may even end up causing more problems for you in the long run. Take some time before you act.

What are the strategies you use to minimize the impact of your mistakes?

Related: 9 Blind Spots That Sabotage Businesses, and How to Beat Them