Reality Check: Mistake-Proofing for Relationships

Mistakes happen. When you make a mistake, you probably take some kind of action to try to correct it. But wouldn’t it be great if we could prevent mistakes from happening in the first place?

Businesses that intend to survive over the long-term already know that mistakes are expensive. They can’t afford to make defective products and then have merchandise returned by unhappy customers. It’s costly to issue recalls, send out apologies, not to mention getting sued!

However, humans are fallible, and it’s so easy to make a mistake, isn’t it?

When a company’s very survival depends on employees avoiding mistakes, it’s worthwhile to create gadgets and procedures to help folks do things right the first time.

As consumers, we benefit from mistake proofing. If you remember the bad old days of computers or other electronics, you’ll probably also remember hooking something up incorrectly. Now? Plugs and jacks are colour-coded, and should you try to plug something in where it doesn’t belong, it simply doesn’t fit. That’s mistake-proofing.

You can also find mistake-proofing in most any household. From slow cookers that put themselves on low when they have finished cooking to smoke detectors that emit annoying beeps when the battery gets low; that’s mistake-proofing that can make our lives better.

Now, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could mistake-proof our relationships?

Remember that relationships are not just romantic-partner relationships. Any connection we have with another human is a relationship, so we’re talking parent-child, friends, bosses, co-workers, and so on.

How would you go about mistake-proofing a relationship?

First, take a look at the relationship and ask yourself, “What kinds of mistakes create problems in this relationship?” Pick one of those mistakes to work on.

Now the fun starts! Focus your imagination and creativity on what you can do to help prevent that mistake from happening.

To add to the delight of it all, use the Japanese word for mistake-proofing: “poka-yoke” (pronounced POH-kay YOH-kay). For example, to invite your children to figure out ways to prevent lateness, say “Let’s poka-yoke our morning routine.”

Does your mother-in-law push your buttons by bringing up disagreeable subjects when she calls? Put a poka-yoke gadget on your phone. This could be a sticky note or a decorative ornament—anything that reminds you to avoid being drawn in to an argument.

Does your beloved have a habit of forgetting dates that are important to you? No need to feel angry or hurt. Try preventing that mistake by giving the gift of a lovely calendar with those important dates emblazoned on it.

It may be helpful to start small and develop your poka-yoke skills before you try tackling the prevention of any serious mistakes in a relationship.

Whether it’s a business or a relationship, it’s more effective to prevent a mistake from happening than it is to try to correct it after it’s happened. Just remember that you can only control what you do. Listing all the mistakes that you perceive are made by the other person isn’t helpful unless you can find something that you can do to help prevent them from happening.

What procedures or gadgets do you use to prevent mistakes in your relationships?

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