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What to Do When You’ve Said the Wrong Thing

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/18/smarter-living/what-to-do-when-youve-said-the-wrong-thing.html

nytimes.com

What to Do When You’ve Said the Wrong Thing
Assess the harm. Don’t “catastrophize.” Take responsibility.

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Saying Stuff We Regret

Saying Stuff We Regret
  • We are all social creatures, susceptible to say something that may offend others.
  • We blurt out stuff, and it is at most a harmless mistake to us, but words hurt others more than anything.
  • The wound our words make is an internal one and as needs a ‘repair’ process that is not like simply apologizing when we accidently bump into someone on the elevator.

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Before We Apologize

  1. We might want to assess the actual harm and find out the depth of the wound.
  2. Don’t say ‘Why are you so mad?’, but frame it as ‘What did i do?’
  3. Don’t gaslight the problem, but say something supportive, realistic and helpful, like you understand and feel ashamed that you have committed this mistake, but you can make it better.
  4. Don’t put the problem on the backburner, or procrastinate on the ‘talk’. We need to handle the offence better or our handling becomes the offence.

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During Our Apology

  1. Take responsibility instead of making excuses or being defensive, or worse, accusing the other person subtly.
  2. When words touch an emotional wound, we don’t need to delve deep and try to clear our name. Feelings are different from facts, and we can forget about an objective discussion now.
  3. Be genuine in your words, body language, vocal pitch and facial pitch. Try to talk face-to-face and not by text or email.
  4. Make a case for the mistake not happening again by educating yourself, and then reassuring the hurt person.

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After The Apology

  1. Have an uneventful, normal interaction with the person that you hurt with your words, so that the relationship can move forward.
  2. If after all your efforts, the person is still hurt like anything, then it is best to offer another sincere apology and move on, disengaging from the person.

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