My husband and I decided to go out for dinner last night at a restaurant that has a great outdoor patio. When we were seated, I noticed that most of the other tables were still waiting for their food, which probably meant that we weren’t going to get our meals very quickly. But it was a nice night and we weren’t in any real hurry, so we placed our orders and settled in to enjoy the evening. Forty-five minutes later, we were still waiting for our entrees, and our waiter was no where to be found.
A full sixty minutes after we had ordered, our waiter finally brought our food. When he asked if we needed anything else, my husband replied, “Yes, since we’ve waited an hour for our meal, I’d like a complimentary glass of wine.” (I wish I’d thought to say that.) The waiter didn’t bat an eye, but simply nodded and hurried off in the direction of the bar, returning a few minutes later with the wine. And even though we had to ask for it, that complimentary glass of wine was the only reason our waiter got a tip from us.
My husband and I like to eat out, and we are very aware of how hard it is to run a restaurant and how hard the staff works to make sure things go right. We never expect perfection and are more than willing to overlook mistakes, with one simple requirement. We want the mistake acknowledged, and if at all possible, corrected. But the most important thing is for someone to admit that a mistake has been made.
I have no idea why we waited so long for our meals last night. There might have been an accident in the kitchen, or maybe one of the cooks didn’t show up. Or our waiter might have simply forgotten to turn in our order, who knows? The point is that he never came to our table in all the time we were waiting and acknowledged that we were waiting far to long for our food. All he had to do was tell us, “I’m so sorry for the wait,” and let us know what was going on. All he had to do was admit that a mistake had been made.
Personally, I make mistakes each and every day of my life. It’s an area where I tend to be a bit of an over-achiever. So I’m the last person who is going to judge someone else for making mistakes, or get all bent out of shape just because something has gone wrong. Yet I learned a long time ago that when I make a mistake, it’s essential that I admit to it, apologize for it, fix the problem if I possibly can, and then move on. Because doing otherwise means that I’m pretending that I’m the kind of person who never makes mistakes.
Acknowledging our mistakes actually opens so many doors. It gives others the chance to forgive us (not to mention the chance to forgive ourselves), and it means that we can begin to work on solving whatever problem the mistake created. When we admit to our own mistakes, I believe we find it easier to relate to and sympathize with others who make mistakes. It’s a way of acknowledging that none of us are perfect and that few problems can’t be solved once we’re actively looking for solutions.
By giving my husband his complimentary glass of wine, our waiter indirectly acknowledged that a mistake had been made, and we did appreciate that. But a direct acknowledgement would have been so much better. We all make mistakes; the trick is to be brave enough to own them.