People who screw up but handle it well
are more attractive than those who don’t.
That’s no newsflash, but why do you suppose it’s true? What is it about second chances, and second chance stories, in which we find inspiration? Aren’t flaws and faults at the center of nearly any second chance?
Here’re a few things I’ve learned about errors and do-overs:
Excuse-makers are repellant. You can’t spend time behind bars without becoming intimately familiar with psychic clutter. Clutter comes in many forms, but people who consistently fall back on rationalizations, excuses, and denial are usually quite guarded, with mental walls of all shapes, sizes, and complexities. If you’ve ever lied to cover up a lie, psychic clutter isn’t new to you, either. It’s just that too few of us recognize how unappealing we become, stressing and tripping when our heads are filled with it.
Deniers are draining. We all have friends, family members, or co-workers with good traits, generous moments, and genuine talents, which makes it frustrating and disappointing to accept them fully (or even work around them) when they’re in bullshit mode. I don’t mean your actors and other neurotics, or even dinner guests who show up and start ticking off their food allergies – those are a different kind of drain altogether. I’m talking about blamers, focus-shifters, liars, counter-accusers, and verbal bullies. We might be cheerleaders for the parts of these people we appreciate, but after coming to terms with their weak-ass coping skills, we can’t help but feel betrayed. And while positive character traits may make a person worthy of a second chance, should they get a third or fourth? The more efficient and healthier option would be to move on to a less draining individual, but individual results may vary.
People who’ve learned from their lapses allow access. How do you feel when an overbearing boss apologizes? Once you get over the shock, you realize this person has just granted you a form of entry by demonstrating vulnerability. This promotes trust and correlation, a link between two or more variables. People tend to follow those who have made mistakes (i.e. appear human) and demonstrate an ability to learn from them, thereby earning respect instead of demanding it.
Taking advantage of a second chance means you’ve been around the block. How do you feel about scars? I dig ’em on men and women: I prefer rugged dames and stoic dudes, neither of which are attainable without some bumps, bruises, or bereavement. In discussions I’ve had with young people on the prowl for jobs or old friends trying to stay employable, I’ve heard several stories where interview points were scored and positions obtained by those who came clean about a dismissal, a poor review, and even jail time. So why are we trained to bury our mistakes and proceed as if they never happened? The Japanese are admired for doing exactly the opposite.
The numbers matter. I don’t believe in parapsychology or auras, so how do we explain what attracts us to a second chance? Naturally the feeling is enhanced when someone makes good their second time around, but why does the concept compel us to begin with? I only know the magic number of chances is two, not three or four. If you can turn things around after chance three or four – after tripling and quadrupling judgment, suspicion, and dismissal – good for you. But you did it with a lot fewer people holding their breath. In other words, the numbers matter.
So, consider these numbers…
- When someone “grants entry” with a sincere apology or reversal, you may be too hardened to treat that with care, but do consider what it took for them to do so. Give a moment’s thought to their fear.
- Turn a past experience where you definitely didn’t perform well into an asset. With time, it will likely become an asset anyway, so why not use it to openly positioning yourself as having grown from it? The value of what you bring to the table isn’t limited to your trophies.
- Watch for psychic clutter. No, don’t watch out for it, you already know who the drain and drama cases are. I mean study it. Pay attention to the way people say more about themselves than they intend or want: it’s fascinating.
- Good ‘ol #2: second chances are where someone’s really going to get character or become a character.
Better By Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong, by journalist and researcher Alina Tugend, is a favorite recent read. In it, Tugend observes that we’re all so busy trying to appear as though we don’t make mistakes that when we do, we lose it and lie. We panic. We do cloddish stuff like blame others, whine, divert, and deny. We’ve been trained to do so, which is one of the book’s most important points; Tugend’s whole thing is “embracing mistakes.”
Mine is similar. I call it “second chance sexy.”