Make No Mistake

Make No Mistake

A recent question from a person in one of our courses: “Is it okay to apologize or admit error to someone who works for me? My supervisor told me it’s a sign of weakness.”

From one of the other course members: “Just say you’re sorry he got upset. You don’t have to say it was your fault.” (Ah hah! The political apology!)

And from another: “Be vague. Say there were some problems with whatever it is.”

The course in which this discussion took place was Communication for New Managers. We asked the New Managers to think about what they want, which is a pretty good way to approach many How-Should-I-Act situations.

In some situations, it’s fairly simple: I want him to take out the trash.

Sometimes it’s simple AND complex: I want him to take out the trash, AND I want him to see me as reasonable, agreeable, and fun to be with.

For the New Managers, and for most of us, what we want is just like what we are: complex and contradictory. We want to be seen as knowledgeable (I know things), competent (I don’t make mistakes) but also honest (Well, maybe a few mistakes) and trustworthy (I’ll tell you if I don’t know).

This contradictory complexity of humanity contributes to the adventure that is communication, wherein there are stumbles and falls, goofiness and grace, and eventually recovery. No-one seems to mind the stumbles so much, or even the falls. We all have them. We’re hard-wired to feel affinity toward those who share the err. We clean up, we apologize.

But what about those who don’t? If they don’t apologize does that mean they didn’t err? If they don’t clean up does it mean they didn’t fall? If they don’t admit an error, does it mean they weren’t wrong?

Or does it mean something that has to do with trust and honesty? We need to watch those folks: make no mistake.