The next right thing, escaping the pitfalls of making mistakes

From time to time I find myself in a situation where doing what is right is not always the first thing that comes to mind.  For example, yesterday I was playing with my kids, and my three-year-old Caroline kicked me in the head so hard that I saw stars.  It really, really hurt.  As the celestial bodies faded away I realized that Caroline had no idea how hard she had kicked me.

My reaction at his moment could have been to spank her(1).  But that would not have been the next right thing.  The right thing was for me to gather my self, and explain that she really hurt me and not to do it again.  Her wrong did not allow me to do the next wrong thing, but gave me an opportunity to do what is right.

The next right thing

Raise your hand if you have ever made a mistake…  Good I see lots of hands.  Now raise your hand if you know exactly what to do after you realized you made that mistake.  Not so many hands this time.  The fact of the mater is, knowing exactly what to do to correct a mistake is a difficult thing to pin down.  This situation often leads us to make another bad decision to cover up for the first mistake.(2)

It is only human to make a mistake.  We all do it everyday.  Most of us hate to admit we made a mistake and do something to cover it up, especially if the mistake was made while dealing with a client.  I am terrified of making a mistake in front of a client.  When I get rushed through a contract I often times misspelling items like my clients names.  Talk about embarrassing.  I am dyslexic, so owning up to this mistake is easy for me now.  I just apologies and correct the mistake.  Correcting the name on a contract is a simple example, we know what the next right thing to do is.  Correct the name, and probably throw in an “I’m sorry, my mistake”.

In other situations it may not be so easy.  What if you list a house for what you know is 15% over market price and it does not sell.  What then?  Do you say I made a mistake (which you clearly did) in listing this home over market price, or do you blame the market, or the buyers, or the interest rate?  The next right thing would be to admit that you advised your clients incorrectly and apologies for wasting their time. But I am sure that 99.99% of agents out there don’t do it this way.

How did we get here?

In the last month I have been taking some flying lessons.  It is a life long dream of mine to be able to fly a plane.  In my lessons we have talked a lot about situational awareness in the cockpit.  Basically that boils down to understanding what is going on at any given time.  Flying is all about doing the next right thing.  It really does not matter how we got were we are.  The only thing to worry about is where we are going.  If you find yourself all of the suddenly upside down, what do you do to fix that problem?  The next right thing.  It could have been 101% your fault for getting into the situation, but regardless, you have to do the next right thing to fix the problem.

So what do you do if you advise your clients incorrectly?  Most of the time it is an honest mistake.  You thought you were correct, but come to find out later that the advice you gave is no longer accurate.  Do you correct the information immediately?  I would.   Your clients are basing their decisions on the info you have provided.  If you find out something you have informed them of is not correct, tell them quickly to help them avoid making a mistake.  Doing the next right thing in this instance could help you avoid a complaint or lawsuit.

Step up

Admitting you are wrong is often the hardest thing to do.  It does not feel good, and often time does not look good to your clients.  But stepping up and admitting your mistakes and doing the next right thing will go much further with your clients than hiding the truth.  Clients have to know they can trust you to tell them the truth, even if the truth means admitting your were wrong.  Having the courage to admit you were wrong will build a deeper trust from your clients and friends.

One of my favorite things to tell me clients is, “I don’t have all the answers, I don’t know everything, but I know where I can find that info”.  This makes it really easy for me to build trust with my clients.  They know right away that I am not going to just make something up to sound like the neighborhood expert.  I don’t have to pretend to know everything.

In the end, doing the next right thing is a lot easier if you did the right thing from the start.  But so often we lie just a little when we meet people just to get them to like us. Realizing this has been done allows us to do the next right thing and hopefully the relationship with our friends or client will thrive.



  1. Yes, spanking is ok in our house.  I was spanked, I am sure my parents were spanked, and so my kids will be spanked when appropriate.
  2. Notice the first action was a mistake but the second action was our decision.  Once we realized we made a mistake we have the decision to correct it or not.

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