33voices interviews Alina Tugend
Alina Tugend: Better by Mistake.
How has your research impacted you personally?
I don’t love mistakes. I don’t sit down and say ‘wow’, I made a mistake, isn’t that great? But I learned to give myself
some slack. I see myself as a conscientious person, and I try hard to do well, and if possible, not to make mistakes. The only way
we don’t make mistakes is by not taking risks, by not setting new challenges, and probably by not getting out of bed. We are
all going to make mistakes, and I have learned not to beat myself up as much; which is a big thing because when you beat yourself up, you don’t learn anything from the mistakes. You spend so much energy thinking about how stupid it was and you can’t move forward.
The second thing I learned is that it’s not just about the result; it’s about the effort. When we look only at results, and I think
that’s such an emphasis in our society – Did we get the A? Did we get the award? Did we get the bonus? – All of which are important; and I am not saying to ignore it; however, when that’s all we look at, we forget about the process. As a result, we don’t see any benefit in the mistake. When I remind myself that this is all part of the process; I am much more open to the idea that, of course, I will make mistakes and hopefully learn something from them and move on.
What was the reaction of your contemporaries when they read your book?
It’s interesting, for most who read it, it has been a mini revelation to them. It can be something about apologies, and why
we have such a hard time apologizing in the right way. It can be something about how praising our children is probably not the best way to make them learn to accept mistakes. It’s something about that they didn’t realize that they were thinking. This clarified why they felt so bad about mistakes. For many people, the feeling was like, ‘aha, I now understand why I feel this way.