Was It Something I Said?

Who hasn’t put their foot in their mouth before, and then thought, “I can’t believe I just said that?!”  Modern Manners Guy weighs in on how to deal with this situation.


Richie Frieman
3-minute read

Who hasn’t put their foot in their mouth before, and then thought, “I can’t believe I just said that?!” I have. I’m not proud of it, but it happens. And if you are reading this thinking, “Nah, that’s not me.” Guess what? It is!

If you can’t spot the time when you said something you wished you hadn’t, just think back to an instance when, during a conversation, the other person(s) didn’t laugh at your joke, respond the way you wished, or just plain ignored you. You may have been so caught up with your own wit that you may have missed it, when really the person across from you couldn’t wait for the conversation to end so they could tell their friends how much of a jerk you are.


So, when you’ve said something you wish you hadn’t, there are two ways to accept and deal with the situation:

  1. If you did realize you said something wrong. You’re in the middle of a conversation and then realize you just insulted someone with an off-color joke that fell very flat. Don’t harp on it, and don’t try to say, “Well, what I meant to say was…” That only makes them focus more on it. Quickly change the topic to something totally different. “It got crazy hot these past few days, right? I wish Fall was here.” Or try, “Did you see Hangover III yet? I loved it!”  Bring up anything other than what you were talking about before. You will have time to go back and apologize, which you should totally do.

  2. If you don’t realize you said something wrong. It’s a surreal moment when someone points out to you that you just offended someone else, unknowingly. Your stomach drops and you start to panic. “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?” Usually when you are told this, the person you have offended has already left; therefore, you have to follow up with a phone call or email. This is similar to the above tip when dealing with a situation in which you know you did insult someone.

Always take the time to swallow your pride and apologize on the phone, in person or in email. Email is easiest and the most common. Let them know that you realized (as in the first example) or didn’t realize (as in the second example) that you may have hurt their feelings. You feel terrible! Awful! Ashamed! How can you make it up to them? When you are groveling, though, don’t bring the offensive remark back up later on with a “Look, remember when I said…” They do. They remember it. Say it once, apologize and move on. If you keep bringing it up every time you see them they will get annoyed.

We’re all going to say something wrong or improper at some time in our lives, but being a mature adult means taking the steps to apologize and move on. There is no ego when it comes to accepting responsibility for hurting someone else you did not mean to.

Do you have a great story about how you properly handled telling someone your opinion?  Post all the details in the comment section below or on the Modern Manners Guy Facebook page.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

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