Faux Pas 101: How to get your foot out of your mouth

This post isn’t about how to prevent you from saying stupid and wildly inappropriate things that embarrass yourself and others.  If I knew how to do that, I’d obviously stop doing it.  Instead these are my tips, learnt the hard way, on how to deal with those times when you wish you’d have not opened your mouth.

Situation #1

You probably would not have noticed this about me but sometimes I like to rant a bit.  Sometimes I even get a wee bit carried away by the sound of my own voice that I rant just a little bit too much.  Yeah, hard to believe, right.

So what do you do if you are sitting there having just smugly diatribed about your hatred for Thom ‘Cabbage Eye’ Yorke and notice one of your friend wearing a Radiohead tee-shirt and a dead thud of uncomfortable silence? 

You (rightly) wonder about the mental capacity and maturity of Twilight fans and then realise your workmate is on “Team Edward”.

You say people who own iphones are wankers then realise that the whole world owns iphones.

Firstly, don’t apologise.  It’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. 

Don’t try to back down and soften what you’ve said.  Don’t say ‘oh their second album wasn’t so bad’ or ‘when I said everyone looks like a whore in purple lipstick, I didn’t mean someone with your colouring…”  It sounds like you are blatant.

Don’t try the over the top compliment either.  “But you wear it well…”

Instead ask the other person for their opinion.  Don’t do it in a sarcastic or belittling way.  Be open and let them have their say.  You don’t have to agree with other people, but you can acknowledge that it’s all just a matter of personal taste.

I only recommend this if you are ranting about something that you don’t really care that much about.  If say you are on a rant about you hate racism and your mate is wearing a “One Nation” tee-shirt without any ironic intention, then why are you friends with them anyway?  if you want to “discuss” matters, it’s never going to be a graceful exit from the conversation.  Take it on or not.

Situation #2

This is one where I’ve been the faux pas receiver for once, not just the giver.  The situation where you ask a question but feel really awkward about the answer.  It goes something like this:

Other person:  What are you buying your father for father’s day?

Me: Nothing

OP: Why not?

Me: He’s dead.

OP: …. OMG… sorry…etc

It gets very strange because it’s not like my dad died recently.  I’ve come to terms with it but the other person apologises to the point where I’m having to comfort them and reassure them that they didn’t say anything bad. 

Don’t do that.  Don’t apologise profusely.  Don’t get more upset than the other person.  Unless they are obviously upset about it, just acknowledge what they said and move on.  Much easier for everyone.

Also, never ever comment on someone’s pregnancy unless they mention it themselves.  Trust me.

Situation #3

You are having coffee and having a good old bitch session about someone you know then you turn around and OMG they are sitting behind you.  Oops.

Firstly, the best way to avoid this is to never say anything behind someone’s back you wouldn’t say to their face.  Secondly, if you are going to bitch, do it where you can see your surroundings.

I think how you cope with this depends on the reason for your bitchfest in the first place. 

Maybe you have some really valid bitching points.  In that case, apologise for talking behind your friend’s back then actually discuss the points with them. 

Maybe you are just blowing off steam.  You love your friend to bits but lately you’ve been spending too much time together.  You don’t really give a damn about the shit you are bitching about. 

It’s hard to recover from that.  You can apologise.  You can give them a gift.  You can make sure you are open and honest with them in future (if they ever talk to you again).  Sometimes you just have to accept that your big mouth might have cost you a friendship.

What’s the worst time you’ve ever put your foot in your mouth?  How did you recover?