Sometimes, your good intentions are going to go wrong.
Either someone you care about will feel misunderstood by what you said or did, or you’ll do something completely stupid outright (if you’re like me, you will only realize that in hindsight).
Hurt feelings. Upset stomachs.
You are going to screw it up from time to time. It’s okay. You are still a good person.
Here’s what you can do to recover from the situation.
Consider the other person
Put yourself in their shoes and consider how it might feel.
This will humanize your whole experience rather than leave you acting in an awkward, robotic fashion.
When you have stepped in doo-doo, it’s best to name it right away. I call this, “naming it”.
So, just name it: “I realize I said something to you that’s completely stupid.” Or, “Whoa, what I meant to say and what I actually said are two completely different things!”
Apologize sincerely. No ifs or buts. And no wishy-washy ones, either!
Under no circumstances should you say, “I’m sorry ‘if’ what I said or did upset you” (when you say if you completely disown the issue) or, “I’m sorry but” (you negate everything that came before the but).
And say the actual word “sorry” – don’t say, “I apologize”, that’s a cop-out.
Hear them out
Give the person a chance to tell you how they feel.
Do this with a kind and soft heart. I know you might be squirming in your seat as this is going on, but trust me, as you practice it will get easier!
Imagine how it might feel to be them right now and listen.
Be receptive, not defensive
Good intentions gone wrong are usually not a pleasant experience. We feel bad, scared, or anxious depending on what happened. It’s like we’re in trouble.
The thing is, you don’t want to keep explaining over and over and over what you meant. Don’t keep doing that. It’s annoying and you make the other person feel even more misunderstood.
Just listen to them. And, when they’re done, let them know what you’ve heard them say.
Things are going to blow up in our faces from time to time. It’s okay. It happens to me too.
It’s a growth moment. Learn to see it this way. This kind of thing only strengthens healthy relationships.
Rather than being remembered as the jerk who told someone they had a banana nose or worse, you’ll be remembered as the friend who truly tried to make it right.
First written 10/2012