Ever said something wrong and have it bug you longer than a Stranger Things Episode? Happens to me all the time. It’s not always due to social anxiety – of which I believe I have as much as the other rational human being. Sometimes we say things, mean it in the best way and it comes out so wrong. Either we hear it ourselves or we notice how people react to it – and that can be not in a positive way. It happens to all of us all the time, and can be driven by the situation – we could be stressed out, sad or just simply overwhelmed. Considering the amount of words we speak each day, saying something perceived as “wrong” is highly likely. Throw a bunch of social norms and I’m surprised we don’t go around saying awful things to each other all the time.
So what do you do once you realize you let something slip? You made a joke at a party when you’ve had too much to drink and you can see your friend get upset about it. Or you were in a meeting and you mentioned a project isn’t going well when the project manager is sitting across from you looking distraught?
Best thing to do is take a step back. Take a moment and check in with yourself – how are you feeling? Are you stressed, under pressure, feeling overwhelmed or just really relaxed? Gather yourself, take a breath. Social norms require a lot of self-control, so take a moment to take control of yourself.
Once you have gathered yourself, recover. Either apologize on the spot if you can, or take a second and clarify what you had actually wanted to say. There is nothing wrong with saying: “That came out wrong, I apologize, what I was meaning to say was…”. It shows you are level headed, in control and that you have the strength to admit you were wrong. If you leave the statement you made hanging in the air, people will assume it’s what you wanted to say. Take the chance to clear the air. I usually deal with things with humor and admit “wow that sounded harsh” or “gosh that was a bad joke” – honesty can be a good policy at times. It certainly helps people forget what I had said.
Confronting yourself gives you a chance to set the record straight. But that’s not the last step – the last step is forgiving yourself. People say stupid stuff all the time. Most of the time, they aren’t fully listening anyway. You can’t go back in the past and change it anyway. What’s done is done – what’s been said been said. Let it go, move on, be brave and forgive yourself. Once you do that, you just might find you are forgiving others for their mishaps as well.