This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Conventional business wisdom says, “Avoid mistakes at all costs.” I think that’s a bunch of hooey.

Simple and unconventional acts, like being honest about screwing up, have the power to transform relationships.

For the record, I’m not actually suggesting you intentionally make mistakes as a way of getting more real in your relationships. I am suggesting that mistakes are inevitable and potentially even beneficial.

There’s nothing logical about mistake-making as a relationship-builder. Put our left brains on the case and we’ll conclude that making mistakes draws down on trust because there is risk: for example, it might prove we don’t know what we’re doing and can’t be counted on to “get it right.”

Enter the paradoxes of human relationships to help us make sense of it all. For sure, sometimes the risks have some pretty serious downsides. It’s also true—and here’s the part we usually forget, ignore, or under-appreciate—that there are upsides that often far outweigh the downsides, like:

  • You become accessible and real.
  • You show what you value (things like honesty, quality, results).
  • You demonstrate that you’re more interested in making things right than protecting your own self-interests.

All of which pretty much trumps the costs (tangible and intangible) of a goof.

Our screw-ups are an opportunity for us to show people what we’re made of—to make known how we handle ourselves and who we choose to be in a moment of truth. Do the right thing and they’ll learn they can count on you for far more than your intellect and charm.

Make It Real

This week, own up to a mistake—recent or otherwise. Be responsible and apologetic, not defensive and guilt-ridden. Don’t justify or blame, just do what you can to make it right (which might simply be ‘fessing up in the first place).

Learn More


Read more about the twelve steps of business relationships, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or do the worksheet on risk-taking as a matter of practice in Chapter 9 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

The following two tabs change content below.

Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).