The beauty of making mistakes!

Anyone who has ever received a text from me or read posts on social media, well, in fact, anywhere that I type, will know that I make typos. I am not a detailed focused person, so they can easily get missed.

It doesn’t just happen when I type!

When I work in person, whether 1:1, workshops, trainings or retreats, I use a flip chart, and often have to explain the perils involved here, as when approaching a flip chart, the ability to spell or write neatly seem to go awry!

But sometimes, these ‘accidents’ can lead to helpful insights.

When talking a situation through with a client in person, I often reach for the flip chart to capture their words – it’s helpful for us to ‘see’ what they are saying.

People speak fast.

I scribble.

When there is a pause I re-read what I have captured to make sure it makes sense.

I’m looking for missing words and misspellings.

Most of the time they just need correcting or a word adding.

Occasionally though, one of these mistakes can spark a conversation and help with the coaching process.

This first happened in a conversation about expectations.

My client and I were looking at them from a number of angles and ascertaining whether my client was being explicit with them, or expecting others to ‘just know’ what their expectations were.

I had captured some of his words and was reading it back when I noticed, I had added a C. Instead of expectations, I had written expectaCtions.

I jokingly asked, “Were you expecting certain actions?’

He paused and the conversation deepened.

He had been expecting specific actions from people, without telling or wanting them to take action HIS way. This added C had helped him take a look at what had transpired and what he could do about it.

The mistake had a gift.

(I now can’t see or hear expectations, without adding the extra C)

When I was training as a coach more than 15 years ago, I read a tonne of self-help books. In fact, I became a self-help junkie! Attending all sorts of courses both on and offline, and even phone classes too.

During that time, I wrote books of notes (another opportunity for me to mis-write something!). I can’t remember which American teacher it was (as there were many) whose telecasts I attended at 2am (UK) but it was during one of these classes that I, in my tired haze, wrote responsAbility.


RE-reading my notes at a sensible hour, I saw the misspelling and now read it as two words, response, ability, not responsibility.

Until that point, I had hated the word responsibility. It felt heavy. Too big for me to handle. So I avoided it at all costs.

Seeing it as two words seemed to distribute the weight and it felt manageable.

“I have response ability” seemed more accessible than “I have responsibility”

Small changes in how we see/hear/read words can challenge the meaning we have attached to them – which is usually a learnt definition with extras!

And when you see these changes, then it’s hard to unsee them. 

Expectaction and response-ability.

I pause slightly every time I write them.

There’s one more that I want to share with you.

I’m not exactly sure how many people I have worked with over the last 15 years as a coach, but I guess thousands. What I notice is, no matter what their background, age, gender, situation, etc., there are always commonalities. The main ones being humanity and the thinking mind. And the latter seems to have a theme which in some way, shape or form impacts the majority of humans. It perceives itself as less than others:

  • “not enough”
  • “inadequate”
  • “worth-less” (another word worth splitting in two)
  • “useless”
  • “a nobody”
  • “insignificant”
  • “unimportant”
  • “inferior”

Inferior. I heard this differently a few months back.

A client’s accent emphasised ‘fer’ and I heard ‘fear’

I said nothing and wrote it the way I heard it.

In-fear-ior.

She read it aloud a number of times.

I said nothing.

The incorrect spelling helped her thinking see what was going on.

She was noticing the ‘fear’ that the thinking mind was frequently generating and the implications it was having on her life.

How she was experiencing conversations.

That she wasn’t always contributing when she could at work.

How her behaviour changed in family gatherings.

Yet again a mistake was a doorway into another perspective. Insights that can change what happens when that thought “I am in-fear-ior” pops into our heads.

Now she hears the fear in the statement and goes looking for that to either reassure, resolve, challenge, or do whatever is required to see that that particular fear is not true.

There can be gifts hidden in mistakes:

ExpectaCtions

ResponsAbility

In-FEAR-ior

If you have made any typos that have changed, helpfully, how you relate to a word, let me know in the comments. I’d love to add more to my repertoire.