Faux pas, anyone?

Back on track with another aspect of living a charmed life…….let’s talk about one form of grace.

How do you handle an embarrassing situation? 

I vote for trying not to dig yourself deeper into the trouble you’ve accidentally found yourself in.  An apology may be in order, so start with one of those.  Try to keep calm and think clearly and use as few words as possible going forward so as not to make things worse.  Make an attempt to smooth things over simply and honestly instead of bursting into tears and running out of the room, never to be seen again, which is what you would LOVE to do.  [If someone else has created the awkwardness in your presence, you may or may not want to help them out – it’s not your problem, but if something helpful comes to mind and they’re struggling, you might offer up something to lighten the mood.  This does not mean you can make the offender look bad instead.]

I was thinking this morning about a situation I found myself in several years ago.  I was at an event where 10-20 people had gathered to listen to a speaker.  There were refreshments either before or after, and I was attempting to be friendly and make small talk with a young lady serving herself ahead of me.  (Small talk, ugh.  But it must be done.)  I had noticed she had a limp, and I asked her if she had hurt her foot recently.  She politely informed me that she had a prosthesis.

facepalm statue

I somehow did not disintegrate into a pile of dirt like I felt I might and wished I would, and instead said something like “oh, I’m sorry; wow, you’re doing great, then”.  I may or may not have asked what happened to her foot to cause her to need a prosthesis – I probably did, but I honestly don’t remember.  You have to have a sense of the person and how they might feel about a continued conversation about it.  If they have been offended and spoke to you in a curt or accusatory tone, don’t keep asking questions or making comments and trying to converse about it to make up for your embarrassment.  But if, like this young lady, they are carrying the cross they’ve been given to bear with dignity and balance, they may be willing to discuss their unique situation.  No doubt I was not the first person in her life to refer to her slight limp.  Another person in her position could have been sick and tired of explaining for the umpteenth time to yet another idiot that she didn’t have a flesh and bone foot and whydon’tyoumindyourownbusiness.  I’m happy to say she seemed on good terms with it, did not act sorry for herself in any way, and did not shred me verbally for bringing it up, which allowed me to struggle less to keep my cool and my own dignity.

Hey, wait!  So the grace can go both ways.  If you are the potentially offended party, try not to overreact and make the speaker feel worse than they already probably do.  Remember that at some point, you’re going to be the one winning the Bonehead Award.  Give them the benefit of the doubt, be confident that it’s not what they were going for, and let’s all live happily ever after.


~Every moment is a fresh beginning.  -T.S. Eliot


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