My father told me a story once about how he had owed a friend, Jim, $10,000 that he couldn’t yet repay.
My father had honestly intended to repay the loan on time, but the money Dad was waiting for from another deal was delayed, and now he found himself pacing the bedroom floor at 1:00 a.m. on the night before his payment to Jim was due.
“What am I going to tell Jim?” he kept asking himself.
That’s when he decided to pick up the phone and tell Jim that he wouldn’t be able to repay him the next day.
Then, as dad told it, he went to bed and slept peacefully…and Jim was up all night pacing his bedroom floor.
Maybe neither of us realized it then, but what my father did in that moment was transform from weak to powerful. The outcome was the same—he wasn’t going to be able to pay back his friend. But the weak way to handle his error would have been to hide: Don’t pick up the phone, don’t answer the phone, don’t return Jim’s calls.
A month ago, I spoke with Sal, a financial advisor in South Carolina who enthusiastically agreed to send me a check to start working with me on improving his business.
The check never came. I emailed Sal to determine whether there may have been some misunderstanding, but he never responded.
Sal made a mistake; he wasn’t ready to commit to getting the help I had offered him. But now, instead of communicating with me to let me know what had happened, he was just hiding.
The powerful way to handle a mistake with regard to an agreement you’ve made is to reach out to the other party and discuss it—even if you sense it will be a difficult conversation. It’s interesting that the most difficult way to handle something is usually, also, the most powerful way.
Hiding is the weakest way to handle a mistake you’ve made. If I had the opportunity to coach Sal, I’d start by asking him this question:
“Where else in your life does your ‘weak’ advisor show up?”
I must admit I’ve had my own weak moments, where I’ve hidden for awhile after making a mistake. Over the years, though, my wife Hannah has shown me that in the end, communicating always beats hiding. Even (or especially) in the worst of situations, communication will come across as the more powerful choice.
How about you? Are you hiding from talks you need to have—with prospects, clients, bosses, or loved ones? Is there a particular place in your life where you’re avoiding communication about a mistake or problem you feel you’ve caused?
Come from integrity—from a powerful place—and have the courage to initiate a difficult conversation. It will always beat hiding, and it will help you feel like a better professional and a better human being.
Talking about your shortcomings is never easy, but have the courage to contact me and I’ll help you through. In the meantime, make mistakes, communicate, and keep REACHING…