People make mistakes all the time. How we handle it, however, can say a lot about who we are.
“To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Alexander Pope.
If we’re honest, nearly every one of us has made a mistake—stuff just happens. But how we handle the error reveals our character.
The adage, “Honesty is the best policy,” is correct. Suppose you make a mistake, fess-up. It’s not always easy to admit a mistake. You may feel embarrassed, dumb, or mad. However, the best of us muster the strength to acknowledge an error, and extend a sincere apology. To set yourself apart, add an explanation of how you will remedy the situation.
For example, if you forget to invite someone to a meeting that is happening in an hour, you could say to your colleague,
“I am sorry, I have made an error. I forgot to double-check the meeting invitation list in haste, and I forgot to add you to the list. Please accept my apology; it was an innocent mistake. You always make a valuable contribution to our meetings, and I am sorry you only have an hour to prepare. I will let our boss know my error so that she will understand the situation.”
Your colleague will either accept your apology, or make a big deal about it. Most likely, they too have made a mistake and will tell you not to worry about it, and tell you that mums the word, the boss doesn’t need to know. Alternatively, your colleague could be insulted that they were not at the top of the meeting invitation list and inform the boss and the whole team about your mistake. You learn a lot about someone by how they handle mistakes, from all sides.
Making a mistake is alright as long as you learn from the experience. In our example, you will never omit this particular colleague again from an invitation list, nor anyone else. You will slow down enough to double-check your list because you do not want to find yourself in this position again.
For your sake, I hope your colleague took advice from an 18th Century poet and took the divine route — forgive, forget, and move on.