How Admitting Your Mistakes Can Increase Trust

By Allison Winter, Communications Associate

When we find a mistake we’ve made, typically our instinct for self-preservation kicks in. We hope nobody discovers our error, and we may even be tempted to hide it or cover it up. Though drawing attention to our mistakes is the last thing we want to do, transparency can actually help increase trust.

Allow me to explain with a short story.

Whenever I travel somewhere new, one of my favorite activities is to research the best coffee shop in the area and try it out for myself. Last summer, when I traveled for a friend’s wedding, I headed to my selected spot to spend the morning before the evening’s festivities begun. Everything I read about this place mentioned its delicious salted caramel latte. I’m a sucker for lattes, so I of course had to give it a try. Once I ordered, I sat down, and I waited for my name to be called.

To my surprise, however, the barista walked my drink over to my table instead. When she sat it down in front of me she said, “I’m sorry, but I think I may have added too much salt to your drink. If you don’t like your latte, please let me know and I’ll make you a new one.” After taking a sip, I thanked the barista for her offer, but told her a new one was not necessary. She smiled and returned to the counter to serve her other customers.

Though I ended up actually liking the drink, this brief interaction really left an impression on me. I was impressed that the barista admitted she created something that wasn’t up to her usual standards, and she opened the door for me to politely request a correction. It demonstrated that she really cared about her work, her product, and me as a customer.

If we are upfront about our errors, and we own the responsibility of our actions, then we are seen as trustworthy. Not as failures.

Approaching a colleague to notify them of a mistake can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few suggestions to make this process a little easier.

  1. Offer several different options to fix the problem.
    To truly build trust, and to show that you’ve truly thought about how to fix your mistake, bring a few solutions to the table. Two or three options will go far to demonstrate you’re ready to jump in and make amends.
  2. Talk it over with a trusted coworker or friend.
    If you’re not exactly sure how to address the error, or you need help brainstorming solutions, grab a friend for a confidential discussion. A second set of eyes and ears is always helpful when problem solving. Plus, talking it over with a person you trust will make you feel more comfortable when you talk to the affected party.
  3. Remember, everyone is human.
    Sometimes the person that is hardest on us is ourselves. It’s important to remember that we’re all human, and mistakes are bound to happen. Giving yourself grace is an important step that will allow you to more easily admit your failings to someone else.

As the saying goes, “Pobody’s nerfect.” Mistakes will happen. It’s how we respond to those mistakes that truly demonstrates our character. Fixing an error doesn’t have to be a set-back. It can be an opportunity to showcase your commitment to your work and your relationships.

If you’re searching for someone to trust with the management of your nonprofit, then check out IMI Association Executives. We’ve been building relationships and delivering solutions for over 30 years. Visit our website to learn more, or submit an RFP today!

Leave a Reply