Have YOU Talked About It?
By Gabrielle Zepeda
Let’s face it: we all have failed at one point or another in our careers. How did you handle it? Did you shy away from the failure and move on? Or did you talk it out with coworkers to learn from the mistake and grow?
All too often, we are faced with the uncomfortable conversation of talking about our failures. It’s embarrassing and unnerving, sometimes our body even responds to failure by mimicking physical pain. In short, failure stinks. We respond to it, but then feel bad about responding and it’s a cycle that we just can’t seem to quit. Well, here we are in a day and age where that has to change.
According to The New York Times, most of us like to process failure internally and quickly so we can get on with our lives. No one wants to be unprofessional or cause a scene because of a presentation gone wrong. I’m just going to say it, because we all need to hear it: we have to talk about failure. There are so many benefits to hearing more perspectives on a situation than trying to unscramble your own thoughts. Emails just don’t cut it anymore. It’s more effective to have interpersonal conversations because you’re able to convey tone, body language and non-linguistic reactions which build stronger relationships among your peers. When you talk about failure with your peers, it’s quite possible to become a more efficient worker and make new friends from sharing those seemingly uncomfortable situations.
Now let’s have some personal reflection time. How many of us have actually talked about our failures? Is it just a battle in our head on how we went wrong, or did we seek out a friend to sort through the problems? Personally, I know it’s difficult for me to talk about my failures. I rack my brain for what went wrong, why I did this and not that, and how many people are going to remember the mistake I made. I overanalyze every possible situation and sometimes make my failures seem way worse than they actually are. For example, I couldn’t find all the contact information for a media list I was working on. I searched for hours, in multiple ways and used the very best stalking techniques to try and find some kind of email to reach out to, yet in the end I still had blank spots on my Excel sheet. While that may not seem like a fail, in my head it was. My supervisor said it was no problem, she understood some were difficult to find, but I really wanted to get it right, to get her everything she needed. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way, and maybe if I had shared the inner workings of my mind with a peer, they would have leveled me out and reminded me that sometimes you can’t do or find it all.
I’ve realized now that it’s better to frame failure as a positive learning experience and an opportunity to be resilient and grow from these experiences. For all of us, next time we’re at an interview, maybe we should embrace the question about a time we failed at work and how we overcame it. Who knows how important that could be to potential employers? Talking about what went wrong isn’t for everyone, but it could always help. So here I am, once again reminded that we are all human, we all make mistakes and we are all going to be okay.