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Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me Summary – July 2022

Author: Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson

Short Summary
Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me (2007) takes you on a ride of accountability by mentioning several moments in history where people did not admit their mistakes. It will show you that the temporary benefit you get from disowning your mistakes is not worth the long-term demerits.
mistakes were made but not by me
Source: amazon.com

Detailed Summary

Everyone makes mistakes. The ever-perfect girl in your class that gets everything right, your mom that you totally adore and think that she can do nothing wrong, even specialized doctors and world-known lawyers; all of them make mistakes and have already made some in their lives. No one is a god-sent angel. We all have our weak moments. Sometimes it is our lack of attention, sentimental attachment, or too much stress or sometimes everything is perfect and under our control. But, somehow we end up committing a mistake anyway.

 Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson are two famous phycologists that teamed up in 2007 to answer some of the questions related to human psychology towards mistakes. Your personal bias and judgment can be ruining your job or your relationship. In these Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me key points you will learn why humans make mistakes and how we are so blinded by our justifications to own them.

Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me Key Points

First of all, You are Not a Fool

I will go first. I make mistakes every day. No seriously. I do not remember the last day I thought that I spent the day flawlessly. But does it make me a stupid person? Well according to Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson it does not. But the trouble starts when all of us start covering up our mistakes or trying to find relatable excuses for what we have done. To break this cycle you will need to buckle up your courage.

Take inspiration from Chinese and Japanese cultures and see mistakes as an essential part of learning.

Start admitting your mistakes. Next time your boss asks why the work is delayed do not make up an excuse or worse put the blame on another co-worker. Be upfront, honest and respectful, and make sure you admit why the work is late and how is it your fault. Owning up to your mistakes will teach you how to take responsibility in all aspects of your life.

Justification or Acceptance; Which Road to take?

You committed a mistake. It has been done. Now it is time to decide what you can do about it. Accept it or justify it. Most of the time we choose the latter option. Not only do we try to convince others by our justification we also try to convince ourselves. How do we do that? By confirmation bias. We only look at the facts and figures that support the excuse we have made. In this way, our mind fixates on it and trusts the excuse more. So I shouted at my partner twice a day. I should apologize. No, I was having a pretty bad day. He was being rude at first. He yelled at me the other week too. It is just the weather; it gets to my head. So on and so forth.

You see, excuse after excuse will only strengthen the excuse in the mind. No accountability and no ‘looking at both sides of the picture.’

Not only confirmation bias lets us off the hook. It also has the capacity to change our morals for good. As a person, you might understand that yelling at your partner is not okay in any situation even if something triggered you because respectful communication is the only way to go in a relationship but when you justify your act over and over again, your mind gets used to it. It becomes normal for you. Your memory is changed so that it suits your situation and needs. Your perceptions totally change.

Governments and Politicians are More Inclined to Self-justify

Leaders should be truthful, accountable, and honest. But, are they? Nowadays global politics does not run like this. How many times in the past decade have you seen a president or a prime minister admit that he had made a mistake publicly without putting the blame on someone else? I guess your answer would be zero.

Consider the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, where both US and Iran justified their sides while putting the blame on the other which only resulted in escalating a situation that was already worse. Or take the Israel-Palestine conflict where hundreds have been killed including innocent children. The situation could not be resolved because both sides place all the blame on the other.

Just like individuals, governments and leaders also use self-justification because for them the other option is unthinkable. It would mean accepting colossal mistakes in front of the world and they are not ready for that.

Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me Quotes

“Nothing predicts future behavior as much as past impunity.” –Carol Tavris

“There are plenty of good reasons for admitting mistakes, starting with the simple likelihood that you will probably be found out anyway.” –Carol Tavris

Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me Book Review

Such an amazing book with lots of different and interesting examples. The perspective that Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson bring to this book as psychologists further add to the authenticity. I totally loved the different examples that ranged from the lives of doctors to prisoners and I am sure you will too.

To Whom I Would Recommend Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me

  • To the freshman in college who is afraid to participate in class due to his fear of making mistakes.
  • To the thirty-six-year-old mother who has some apologizing to do to her children.
  • And to everyone who wants to become a more self-introspective person.

Link: https://amzn.to/3SeL7ct