All of us, at one time or another, have made social blunders that were extremely uncomfortable for everyone around us (ourselves included) and, through hit or miss, experience has taught us some ways of easing the awkwardness when these situations arise.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most common social (and a few professional) blunders and some possible recovery steps to ease the situation immediately, and to learn to avoid them completely in the future – for everyone’s sake! For most of these, thankfully, we did not have to be the offender in order to learn from them. But, alas – we are all human, I’ll bet that all of us have experienced – first-hand – at least one of these personally.
So, in no special order, let’s take a look at the Top 5 Social Blunders we humans make.
1. Mistaking someone for being pregnant
Okay – this is like the worst blunder you can ever possibly make. No pun intended – but this is the “big, fat one.” The only thing worse than doing this is compounding the awkwardness if there is a witness to your bumbling and ignorant insensitivity.
On this blunder, there is no recovery.
You probably will never be forgotten nor forgiven. But in order to save as much face as you can, quickly and sincerely apologize with absolutely no explanation of what led you to the assumption, and change the subject immediately. Let me repeat this – NEVER try to explain you assumption – just move on in the conversation as fast as you can, making sure not to over-compensate with a half-hearted compliment.
2. Letting the cat out of the bag
Whether you accidentally exposed a surprise birthday party, a personal secret of someone else, or revealed a “flaw” of another person – this is a bad one. Yes – it’s really bad to do this personally, but in a business situation, where company secrets are involved, this is cause for immediate dismissal. Sayonara – Game over. Buh-Bye.
In a personal situation, it’s best to apologize immediately (if not sooner), not only to the person who’s surprise you ruined, but also to the person that trusted your sorry ass with the information in the first place. Fess up and own it or you will never be trusted again.
In a business setting, it depends on the severity of the subject; letting a person know of a slight or insignificant change in company policy is one thing. Letting the competition know your business strategy is quite another. Again, apologies should be given all around as soon as possible, and when and if called for, if the cat-out-of-the-bag is lion-sized and will have industry repercussions, have your letter of resignation – complete with sincere repentant paragraph – on the day following the event. And Never Do This Again – Ever!
3. Calling your PRESENT partner by your EX’s name.
This is another faux pas that you may never recover from – especially if you’ve spent the last half-hour telling your new partner how miserable and inconsiderate your ex was.
There are two lessons here. First, if you really are that feeble-minded and socially-inept to do this in the first place, make it a point to always date people with the same first name. For example, I have a proclivity to date guys named Michael. It’s either that, or call everyone the sleazy 80s affectionate moniker – “babe.” But be warned – even that is offensive.
The second lesson here is to never, ever, ever disrespect you exes. Never talk bad about them. Never share those bad times in the past with anyone in your present. Because if on that rare moment, when that slip-of-the-tongue occurs, your fallback position is that the intense level of intimacy that you had felt with your past partner is on the same or even a (surprisingly) similar level of intensity as with this new partner.
So what is the recovery from this blunder? Again, apologize quickly and profusely, and move on to another topic. But realize that you are TOAST. Only after about 3 or 4 years you may be able to laugh about it, and even then – you’re still TOAST!
4. Assuming a particular political affiliation
Hey – although it’s already months and months after the 2016 election, our national polarization (for whatever reason or justification) is still at an all-time high – even after all this time. Politics have become a personal extension of who we identify ourselves to be, and feelings are still strong and deep and prideful. Very strong, very deep, and very prideful. Never assume that anyone – no matter how they are dressed, what race they are, what social status they appear to be, what kind of car they drive, what zip-code they live in or what profession they work in – is of a particular political persuasion. Remember that old saying about “assume” makes an ass out of you and me? Well it still applies – across the board.
If you do make this sophomoric mistake, find a way to compliment the political person you just slurred, by saying that you admire some other part of their platform, their beliefs, their voting record, their compassion and advocacy for their constituents – SOMETHING that will let the person you are speaking with know that although you are of a different mind-set politically, that you are knowledgeable in your convictions and opinions regarding all public political figures.
5. Passing gas in public
This is probably the most common fear and the most frequent occurrence of a social faux pas – having someone else witness a bodily function that we consider private or distasteful. Hey, it happens to almost all of us with a fair amount of frequency, if the truth is to be told. So some people have become quite creative through the ages on the best way to ignore, acknowledge or completely deny the source of that sneaky offensive smell that somehow permeates the immediate environment.
Our first instinct of covering our tracks after we’ve farted in public is either denial or blaming it on something or someone else. Here are some of these creative ways:
My father used to proclaim, “Someone stepped on a frog.” Around the house we’d all blame it on the poor old dog. Some neighborhood kids sometimes proclaim, “Who pulled my finger?” While other kids would simply say, “Fred’s out!” and hysterical giggling would ensue.
But as we’ve matured, and have become aware of sophisticated social graces (and expectations), we needed a better, more dignified way of addressing the obvious – and here is the advice of expert Tibbs Jenkins of Tatler.com has to say in her article The Etiquette of Farting:
Particularly awkward farting situations:
Smear tests, job interviews, weddings, funerals
Where farting is allowed:
In bed (alone), country walks, the Jacuzzi, boarding school, up until aged two
Time and places where you will – we’re afraid – inevitably fart:
Childbirth, planes, yoga classes, post-roast lamb, in elevators
Situations where the only solution is to laugh:
And what to do if you do fart?
Blame the dog.
But if you don’t have a dog, say nothing.
After all, “never complain, never explain.”
There are bigger things in the world than our own personal feelings, and those are the feelings of all of those around us. The only thing that we can do as individuals to make this world a better – and yes, even “greater” place – is to treat each other with kindness and dignity.
Whether it is through our inter-personal exchanges of apologies for our faux pas and social blunders, or whether it’s through our public displays of compassion and kindnesses to each other, our bravery and conviction – even in the face of losing face – will get us through in a positive light.
The important thing to remember in social and professional situations is that all people deserve respect, compassion and dignity.
So be kind.
All books are available at amazon.com. Click on title to learn more.
Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck
by Amy Alkon
Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions
by Zachary Shore
Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th Edition: Manners for Today
by Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning
Nine Common Social Blunders That Are Killing Your Charisma – designtaxi.com
10 Simple Solutions to 7 Common Social Blunders – excelle.monster.com
Global Seismic Monitor – http://ds.iris.edu/seismon/
The Etiquette of Farting – tatler.com
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