Mistake or Misbehavior

Mistake or Misbehavior

I exchanged comments on LinkedIn yesterday and had an interesting discussion with someone on the differences between the word mistake versus misbehavior. I tend to believe that people can confuse the two.

A mistake is usually seen as unintentional. Knocking over a cup of coffee by mistake is seen as a misdirection of our arm. A misbehavior, however, seems to be seen more as intentional, like raising our voice or name-calling during a disagreement. What if a misbehavior was also seen as unintentional, a “misdirection” of our emotions? Maybe the world would be a different place.

The problem here, as I see it is that we all wish we could correct peoples’ misbehavior but realize we don’t have the ability or right to do so. We end up labeling or name-calling the misbehavers psychopaths or narcissists and we become the misbehaver we abhor, in the process.

For example: When was the last time someone knocked over a cup, and you proceeded to correct them?
“If only you had moved your arm a little to the left, then that would not have happened.” And how do you think the offender of the mistake would feel with your correction? Of course, it never happens.
Well, maybe it should be the same for a misbehavior. I know it sounds counterintuitive but run with me here.

If we let people own their behavior without corrections, I think the world would be a different place.
When I make the mistake of knocking over the cup, in the example, I simply acknowledge it and might help with cleaning up and usually give a brief apology like “oh, sorry, clumsy me!”. In my head, I think to myself to be more cautious, and the consequences of my mistake are usually enough to smarten me up.

When I make a misbehavior of getting angry, for example, if I don’t catch myself as it happens or just after, then someone simply OBJECTING to my misconduct should be enough for me to acknowledge it. There is no need for someone to explain how not to get angry or label me for my anger. As with the mistake, I can offer a brief acknowledgment or simple apology, “oh, sorry, had a hard week!”. Like the mistake, misbehavior has consequences that are enough to teach me to behave better next time.

By giving me a way out immediately allows me to do so and we move on. At the same time, if I failed to acknowledge my misbehavior I need to also know that this incident can be escalated by the offended person and more restitution will be required by me as the escalation increases.

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