Everyone makes mistakes — a lot of them – all the time. Some people whose faults have harmed will not let us forget the pain and suffering we have caused. Even if we are not reminded, the aftereffects of our relational problems persist in ways that remind us of our vulnerability and humanity.

We try not to duplicate our mistakes again and remind ourselves that mistakes give valuable learning opportunities that help us build our relationships.

It feels awful to make mistakes, and the attempt to reframe them – to think that the errors we make might teach us lessons – may seem absurd when we are still reeling from the consequences. However, I am aware of the lessons that can be learned. This includes becoming more aware of the other person's sensibilities and learning how to conduct ourselves in the future to avoid unnecessary conflict and preserve our own and the other person's dignity. This may not just be the case the next time we are confronted with a similar or dissimilar interpersonal conflict.

Many factors influence how we manage our mistakes in interpersonal conflicts across the spectrum. These include the identity of the other person, the source of the annoyance (what was said/done/not said/done), and so on. In any case, mistakes provide us with an opportunity to learn about ourselves, the other person, and, hopefully, how we can eventually forget the mistake and remember the lesson.

This week I'm asking you to think about a mistake you made that led to a conflict.

  1. What was the situation in which you erred? What exactly did you say or do?
  2. What prompted you to say or do that (your response to the preceding question)?
  3. What effect did the conflict have on the other person?
  4. What effect has the other individual felt?
  5. What about you and your emotions - how would you characterize the impact on you at the time? How about right now?
  6. What inspired you to do or say that or those things at the time, as you recall?
  7. What about the other person's reaction sticks with you? What else is leftover from the error?
  8. What do you see as the learning point (or points) that emerged from your error in this conflict?
  9. How can you incorporate what you've learned to not repeat the error but instead retain the knowledge?
  10. What can assist you in forgetting what you said or did incorrectly while memorizing the lesson?
  11. What else comes to mind as you think about these questions?
  12. What are your thoughts?