Speaking Success: The Power of Words


by Joan Garbo 

"On no account brood over your wrongdoing.
Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean. "
Aldous Huxley


All of us have made mistakes, some big ones, some small ones.  Regardless of the nature or size of the mistake, what you do after the mistake is made that will determine if the mistake is a setback or a set up for a breakthrough! 

More often than not, when we make a mistake, our first reaction is embarrassment, followed by a cover-up/correction with the hope that no one saw the mistake. If someone has noticed the mistake and asks about it, the first position many take is either denial or justification.

Neither will produce the set up for a breakthrough. Rather, they close the window of opportunity for positive change.

It is very understandable that many people feel uncomfortable and defensive when facing up to their mistakes.  I don’t know anyone who had a teacher who circled all the right answers in red. We struggle to do things right and when we don’t, we imagine consequences that we don’t want to see become reality. Most of the fears of the consequences come from the past when our choices were more limited and we had less power to effect positive outcomes.

But if we stay in the present, we can make conscious choices of how we will interpret and deal with consequences. We can choose to interpret mistakes as great moments for learning!

Another great interpretation of mistakes and “being caught” comes from Randy Pausch, author of “The Last Lecture”, who said “When someone rides you it means they care about you.  When you do a poor job and they don’t say anything it’s because they’ve given up on you.”  Those of us who have ever been on a sports team understand this dynamic. The coach spends the most time with the “A” players, the ones who show the most promise, and the ones who are open to correction knowing that the input will make them better players.

We really have little if any control on how others act in response to our mistakes; we do have control on how we will interpret and react to them. In an ideal world, everyone would take time to pleasantly interact with us and be aware of our feelings and speak to us in a kind and positive manner. Since we don’t live in an ideal world, the best option is to choose the highest and most empowering interpretation of the correction:  accept the correction and reject the tone and manner of the input that doesn’t work for you.

Ultimately we have to learn to be our own best coach.  If you’ve had children, or ever watched a child learn to walk, we know that after a few steps, the toddler falls down. The adults start clapping their hands, encouraging the child and being a cheerleader for the child. If the adults started to berate the toddler for going past the center of balance, and punishing him or her for falling, the child would develop a fear or trepidation for walking!  As adults, start encouraging and being a cheerleader for yourself and others as you and they are taking baby steps in learning to walk on the path of life’s journey!


About the Author



Equipping all levels — from the novice to the seasoned professional — with the best tools of the trade, Joan
Garbo has been a national consultant, trainer, and public speaker since 1978. She has applied her extensive training and experience in language development to communication and relationships in the workplace. For the past 25 years, Joan has specialized in consulting and training business owners and their employees in effective communication skills, team-building, executive coaching, and how these impact customer service. Joan is dedicated to supporting professionals in creating work environments that are nurturing, productive, and prosperous to management, employees, and clients. Joan can be reached by e-mail at 
joan@joangarbo.com, phone at (631) 608-2979. Joan Garbo Consultants, 19 Glen Lane, Copiague, NY 11726. www.joangarbo.com. or on facebook.

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