You made a mistake. You’ve broken trust. You’ve hurt your submissive. It doesn’t matter that you think you didn’t, the fact is they are hurt by something you did or said. And now, you’re not sure if you’ve caused irreparable damage, or not sure if your submissive will think that your relationship is an abusive one, or any number of other things that could run through your head.
Your first reaction should NEVER be damage control. Forget your label. Forget their label. Because ultimately, with your actions — You. Hurt. Them.
Look, we’re human — we make mistakes. We try and use our best judgment, but sometimes we screw up. No matter how hard you try, Dominant or not, it’s going to happen at some point. It doesn’t make you a bad person — how you handle it defines the kind of person you are.
But if you repeat it again, that also defines the kind of person you are.
According to Paul J.H. Schoemaker, co-author of the book, Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, most people tend to overreact to their slip-ups. They “make asymmetric evaluation of gains and losses so that losses loom much larger than gains,” he explains. As a result, they may be tempted to hide their mistakes, or even worse, continue down paths that have proven unproductive. This “sunk cost fallacy” can be a very dangerous thing.
Acknowledge that you made a mistake.
It’s critical to be transparent, and own your mistake. Don’t try to blame others. In the case where your submissive was hurt, The very first thing you should do is apologise. Just flat out say “I am sorry X has caused you pain.” Don’t add a “but” to it. Do not make excuses. Any excuses will re-victimise your submissive all over again. Do NOT be defensive.
Once you’ve admitted what you’ve done, it may be appropriate to explain (in a non-defensive way) what led to the mistake. This can help your submissive better understand why it happened and help you think of how to avoid it in the future. Poor decisions and flawed processes can lead to mistakes, but that doesn’t mean every bad outcome is a mistake. It’s important for you to understand what was internal, external and under your control if you’re going to learn from your mistake.
Be action oriented and focus on the future.
How will your misstep be remedied? What will you do differently going forward? And I mean not in a petty way as in ‘well then I will just do x from now on’. You should genuinely be working on how you can prevent this mistake for happening again. Acknowledging the reality of the mistake sets your mind in proper space to amend and correct not to defend and avert.
Do NOT try and explain it away with your side of the story. Now is not the time for any of that. Now is NOT the time to try and defend your actions or to make less of it. Now is the time for genuine concern for the person you hurt. Now is the time to acknowledge their hurt. Doing less invalidates their feelings about the situation.
Change your ways.
Mistakes can play a key role in leadership development. If the error was a result of a poor decision, explain how you will avoid making this mistake in the future. By showing that you have changed your ways, you can reassure people that you can be trusted with important tasks or decisions in the future.
Rely on your support network.
A healthy support network has three components: authentic trusting relationships, a diverse range of perspectives, and is reciprocal. You want to turn to people not to defend you or your actions, but instead, for advice on rectifying the situation and for input on how to avoid repeating the same mistake again. We are never too big to learn from our mistakes. Do you really want a bunch of people around telling you how wonderful you are and that you didn’t do anything wrong? Personally, I’d want to hear how I can avoid doing this again and people who can help me learn from it.
Not all mistakes are created equal
Mistakes vary in degree and type, and some can be tougher to recover from than others. Mistakes that involve breaking your submissive’s trust can have lasting consequences. If your mistake has caused your submissive to lose trust in you, approach them and offer a sincere apology. Ask what you can do to restore their trust. But be patient — forgiveness may take a long time.
When mistakes happen — true mistakes, where the person isn’t a jerk and didn’t act with malice — it’s important we focus on the mistake, the action that caused the mistake or pain — NOT the person. We learn more as a community when we do this.
Things to Remember
- Accept responsibility for your role in the mistake
- Show that you’ve learned and will behave differently going forward
- Demonstrate that you can be trusted with equally important decisions/matters in the future
- Be defensive or blame others
- Make mistakes that violate people’s trust — these are the most difficult to recover from
- Stop experimenting or hold back because of a mis-step
It can be hard to rebuild confidence after a mistake. Keep in mind, mistakes themselves aren’t a sign of weakness or you don’t know what you’re doing — but recovering from them demonstrates resilience, perseverance and a willingness to learn from your mistake.