Good, kind, empathetic leaders (yes, they’re out there!) are especially vulnerable to having negative self-talk. This can take the form of ruminating and spinning about things they inadvertently did or didn’t do to others.
Does this sound like you? Berating yourself for something you’ve done in the past can’t help you to move forward.
You’ll need to consciously work at getting beyond past mistakes. Staying in that place of negative self-talk can only harm your psyche, putting a strain on your leadership.
Some thoughts on how to get beyond that horrible, no-good-day way back when you made someone cry (even if it’s a weeping session that’s only in your imagination):
Talk it over: A trusted confidante, a partner, therapist or coach come in handy when you’re tired of ruminating about what you did to someone. Find a good listener, as talking it out is often what’s needed. It’s good to have people around you that you can download to and sometimes that is enough.
Apologize sincerely: They say (and I generally agree) that an apology should be made as soon as possible following the gaffe. But you might need to allow time for things to settle and be thought through. Giving a brief apology just to get it over with is not the best way to go. When you have a sense of calm confidence that you can speak from the heart and take full ownership for what you did, that’s the best time to apologize, whenever it is.
Work harder to gain trust back: This is the hardest part, because people you’ve harmed will trust you in the time it requires them to forgive you – and that can take a very long time. There isn’t a stopwatch for that, and everyone is different. Even if you’ve moved beyond the self-flagellation stage, they may not. Just make sure that you reach out, prove that you are trustworthy again (and again, and again), and at some point if the ones you’ve hurt are decent human beings, they’ll give you another chance.
Learn and change: This is the best part: make your error into a learning opportunity. How will you recognize the trigger that caused you to harm someone, and what will you do differently the next time? Although all situations and the people involved are different, there may be some common threads to the triggers that cause you to exhibit unwanted behavior.
It’s freeing when you can break loose of the negative self-talk. It takes work, but it’ll allow you to focus on being a better human and leader.