Myths about Making Mistakes

Here are some common myths – and the real facts – about mistakes.

Myth: Perfectionists make better workers.

Fact: Many perfectionists fear challenging tasks, take fewer risks and are less creative than nonperfectionists. One research study found that perfectionists performed more poorly than their counterparts in a writing task. It may be that perfectionists so dread receiving feedback that they don’t develop the same writing skills as non perfectionists.

Myth: It’s good for your children’s self-esteem to praise them for being smart.
Fact: Research has shown that praising children for being smart – rather than for making a good effort – leads them to fear taking on more difficult tasks because they might look “dumb.” Children who feel effort is more important than appearing smart are often more willing to tackle greater challenges.

Myth: Women handle mistakes better than men do.
Fact: Women and men do tend to respond to mistakes in different ways, but each sex can learn something from the other’s approach. Men tend to place the blame on others and could benefit from a greater willingness to shoulder responsibility for their errors. Women, on the other hand, tend to beat themselves up, and need to learn to depersonalize mistake-making. Read more on my blog for The Huffington Post

Myth: It’s always a good idea to apologize to an injured party as soon as possible after making a mistake.
Fact: While it’s not a great idea to wait too long to apologize, research has found that if you say “I’m sorry” before the person you hurt has time to be heard and understood, the apology can feel more like pressure to move on than a sincere statement of regret.

Myth: Most fatal medical mistakes are the fault of incompetent doctors or nurses.
Fact: The vast majority of fatal medical errors arise from systemic problems rather than a few bad apples. For example, bacteria that collect in lines inserted into patients to deliver medication and nutrients and to measure activity in the body cause an estimated 80,000 bloodstream infections, resulting in about 28,000 deaths annually.

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