Does Anyone Admit Mistakes Anymore?

By: James P. Krehbiel

It appears that it's not currently acceptable to practice admitting mistakes, particularly in the realm of service to others. What happened to the days when people accepted wrong-doing and took ownership for their mistakes? Customer relationship failure in the public and private sector appears in vogue.

We live in a litigious society. I suspect that lawyering and other policy pressures have far reaching implications in affecting this problem. Instead of civility, we have a culture which perpetuates the concept of "protecting one's back-side." The days when people displayed integrity and provided quality service appear to have vanished.

I just got off the phone with a business that I deal with. I was questioning my billing statement, but the service representative kept talking over me. Finally, I interrupted her by saying, "Would you please listen to me?" After sharing my concern and being put on hold, she responded with, "We will credit that charge on your account." In the old days, the conversation would have gone something like this: "I am sorry; you were right; that charge should not have appeared on your statement; we will gladly rectify the problem immediately; thank you for notifying us of your problem."

In many places it appears that the organizational wheels are turning and managers are training their customer service staff to avoid admitting mistakes at all costs. I assume their logic is that admitting mistakes means that one must take responsibility for the error. Such an approach to customer service might then leave workers open to possible retaliation, insults, or litigation. I suppose some greedy individuals may want to sue their department store, but most people merely want their problem handled in a civil manner. It's that simple.

In today's world, it doesn't appear to matter whether people do the right thing for others. The driving force is to do what's in one's own best interest; to do what is expedient. This is often true in issues involving the welfare of children.

Some insights for those serving the needs of others are:

We need a cultural paradigm shift. What happened to "honesty is the best policy?" Serving each other means demonstrating leadership, civility, and the courage to admit mistakes. Only then can our society regain the integrity that has been lost through our feeble efforts to protect ourselves from our own humanity.

James P. Krehbiel is a licensed professional counselor and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He can be reached at (480) 664-6665 or

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